The Corner

Politics & Policy

Rubio’s Refugee Reversal Is Good — but Long Overdue

Marco Rubio has reversed his support for resettling Syrian refugees in the United States. In an appearance on Sunday’s This Week, Rubio explained:

The problem is we can’t background check them. You can’t pick up the phone and call Syria. And that’s one of the reasons why I said we won’t be able to take more refugees. It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s that we can’t. Because there’s no way to background check someone that’s coming from Syria. Who do you call and do a background check on them? . . .

In the case of what’s happening in Europe, this is a swarm of refugees, and as I’ve said repeatedly over the last few months, you can have 1,000 people come in, and 999 of them are just poor people fleeing oppression and violence, but one of them is an ISIS fighter. If that’s the case, you have a problem, and there is no way to vet that out. There is no background check system in the world that allows us to find that out, because who do you call in Syria to background check them?

Rubio’s right. Here’s the problem: It took him way too long to get here.

In September, Rubio told a South Carolina town hall audience, “We would be potentially open to the relocation of some of these individuals at some point in time to the United States.” But the prospect that terrorists could use the refugee crisis to smuggle themselves into the United States was obvious in September, as was the fact that there is no system of vetting available to us that could mitigate that risk. There was no one in Syria to call two months ago; there is no one to call now. The facts of this issue have not changed; what has changed is that the consequences of a reckless refugee policy have been made visible, in the form of corpses.

I’m glad that the senator has altered his position. But given that the reasons he cites for his shift were equally true several months ago, his previous policy must be chalked up to ignorance or irresponsibility, neither of which is reassuring.

Ian Tuttle — Ian Tuttle is the former Thomas L. Rhodes Journalism Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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