“If we’re going to be bringing 200,000 people over here from that region — if I were one of the leaders of the global jihadist movement and I didn’t infiltrate that group of people with my people, that would be almost malpractice.”
— Ben Carson, Nov. 13, 2015
“I am angry that President Obama unilaterally decides that we’ll accept up to 100,000 Syrian refugees while his administration admits we cannot determine their ties to terrorism.”
— Former Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina, Nov. 14
“Our president wants to take in 250,000 from Syria. I mean, think of it. 250,000 people. And we all have heart. And we all want people taken care of and all of that. But with the problems our country has, to take in 250,000 people — some of whom are going to have problems, big problems.”
— businessman Donald Trump, Nov. 14
“When the president says things like, you know, through an executive order, ‘I’m going to bring 100,000 people in here from Syria,’ Congress needs to say ‘you do that and we’re going to defund everything including your breakfast.’ “
— Carson, quoted in a SuperPac ad released Nov. 17
Sometimes fact checks have an impact, sometimes unfortunately they don’t.
In October, Donald Trump earned Four Pinocchios for repeatedly making the outlandish claim that President Obama was planning to admit 200,000 refugees from war-torn Syria.
Rather than drop the figure, Trump has boosted it to 250,000. And other candidates have followed his lead with exaggerated figures, just not quite as high. Ben Carson claimed 200,000 from the Middle East “region” and 100,000 from Syria; Fiorina said 100,000 from Syria.
In a tweet, Trump even evoked the image of a flood of Syrian refugees “now pouring into” the United States:
Refugees from Syria are now pouring into our great country. Who knows who they are – some could be ISIS. Is our president insane?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 17, 2015
(We initially thought Sen. Rand Paul might qualify for scrutiny as well, since he told reporters in Florida on Nov. 14 that “I would not admit 200,000 people from Syria.” But a check of the audio found that he was responding to a question from an uninformed reporter who flatly stated that the administration had agreed to admit 200,000 from Syria.)
In fact, the planned number of Syrian refugees thus far is 10,000. How can people running for president — even if they are all political novices — continue to get this so wrong?
As we have explained before, the only thing close to a 200,000 figure is an announcement in September by Secretary of State John Kerry that the United States was prepared to boost the number of total refugees accepted from around the world in fiscal 2016, from 70,000 to 85,000. Then, in 2017, Kerry said that 100,000 would be accepted.
That adds up to 185,000 over two years. But this would be the total number of refugees, not the number of refugees from Syria.
By law, the president every fiscal year sets the maximum number of refugees the United States can accept in a year. (Note to Carson: This is not done by executive order; it is a legal requirement.) Over the past decade, the annual limit has been between 70,000 and 80,000, according to the Congressional Research Service. (In fiscal 2013, about 30 percent came from the Middle East, mostly from Iraq.) So, 100,000 from around the world in 2017 would be a big jump, assuming Obama goes through with the pledge to authorize that level. But nothing is set in stone.
As for Syria, Obama has only directed the United States to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year. That’s certainly an increase — fewer than 2,200 Syrians have been admitted to the United States since the uprising began in March 2011, according to State Department officials — but it’s hardly the flood that Trump worries about. (Indeed, it’s only a drop in the bucket of some 4 million Syrian refugees.) In theory, if Obama lifted the ceiling to 100,000 in 2017 and then filled the gap entirely with Syrians, that would be 25,000 more–but that’s still far less then 100,000.
Note: Some readers have pointed to this tweet by Obama as evidence for the “100,000” figure. Note the phrase “and other refugees.” We certainly hope the candidates are not basing their assertions on a tweet.
We're also increasing the number of Syrian and other refugees we admit to the U.S. to 100,000 per year for the next two years.
— President Obama (@POTUS) September 28, 2015
Of those admitted to the United States from Syria so far, about half have been children and a quarter are adults over 60. There are slightly more men than women, but only 2 percent of those admitted are single males of combat age, officials said.
Representatives for Trump, Carson and Fiorina did not respond to queries.
The Pinocchio Test
There is no excuse for repeated, false statements that have no basis in fact – and have been proven wrong. These candidates each earn Four Pinocchios.
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