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Will San Diego Take More Syrian Refugees After Paris Attacks?

Evening Edition Host Peggy Pico speaks with Hanif Mohebi, executive director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations in San Diego, about the backlash Muslims face in San Diego after Paris Attacks.

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The revelation that one of the terrorists involved in Friday's attacks in Paris came through Greece by posing as a Syrian refugee has raised questions about accepting refugees from Syria.

In the U.S., 10 governors have now said they will refuse to accept these refugees. California's Gov. Jerry Brown has said the U.S. should accept Syrian refugees, but emphasized the need for thorough vetting.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said that U.S. assistance for refugees should only be offered to Christians. The U.S. is set to take in 10,000 refugees from Syria this year, with San Diego taking 300 to 400 refugees.

President Barack Obama responded Monday to Bush’s idea during his remarks at the G-20 summit in Turkey. "That's shameful," he said. "That's not American. That's not who we are."

The president did call on Muslim leaders around the world to step up and strongly condemn extremist attacks like the one in Paris and to prevent young people from becoming "infected" with extremist ideas.

But defining terrorism is also crucial.

Hanif Mohebi, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in San Diego, said the public needs to understand that criminals or terrorists don’t have a religion.

“These individuals are terrorists,” Mohebi told KPBS Midday Edition on Monday. “They do not have any moral value. If they did, they would not be doing what they’re doing. Terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.”

David Murphy, executive director of the International Rescue Committee in San Diego, said the refugees who are flooding into Europe are fleeing from the same type of terrorism that killed 129 people in Paris.

Murphy urged leaders to keep borders opened and assured the public that the U.S. has the strictest background checks for refugees.

“The process for the background checks take one to two years — maybe even longer,” Murphy said. “These refugees are the most security-vetted population that come to the United States.”

“We hope that Europe continues to keep their borders open. By closing the border, it’s not going to solve the crisis. Terrorists will find their way.”


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