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Republican 1st District Congressional Candidates Say The US Shouldn't Accept Syrian Refugees

Batts, Comer: Candidates' Facebook pages/Pape: Pape for Congress

The three Republican candidates vying to replace Kentucky’s retiring 1st District Congressman Ed Whitfield are of one voice when it comes to Syrian refugees: They say they shouldn’t be allowed in the United States, regardless of vetting.

Whitfield’s former field director Michael Pape issued a “call to action” Tuesday stating the country needs to “cut off immigration from countries that sponsor terror.” In the wake of last Friday’s attacks in Paris, House Speaker Paul Ryan called for a “pause” in letting Syrian refugees into the country until tougher background checks are in place. According to multiple news outlets, the attackers in Paris have not been identified as Syrian refugees, but Friday's violence has sparked heated debate and political maneuvering regarding immigration and border control.

Pape says cultural and linguistic barriers are too great to adequately vet refugees from countries like Syria and Iraq. He said countries like Iran should be encouraged to accept refugees from the war-torn Middle East.

“That’s a problem for that part of the world to take care of, for the refugees," Pape said. "It’s not an issue that I think we can bring the refugees to this country. I think it’s an absolute mistake to do that and I’m glad to see Matt Bevin, our newly elected governor, say that we’re not going to take refugees here in Kentucky.”

Another candidate, Hickman County Attorney Jason Batts, agrees and has started a "like and share" campaign on social media to tell President Barack Obama and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear not to allow Syrian refugees in the commonwealth.

Credit Batts for Congress, via Twitter

“We simply don’t know what the background of that individual is and we don’t know what their intent is when they’re coming here, so we have to err on the side of caution first and protecting American citizens," Batts said.

Outgoing agriculture commissioner James Comer, also running in the 1st District, says the civil unrest in the Middle East makes data collection for vetting impossible.

“I’m against accepting any Syrian refugees right now or any refugees from any European or Asian countries right now," Comer said. "Obviously, there’s a call for more vetting, but the problem is you can’t vet those people.”

So far, no Democrats have officially entered the race. State Sen. Dorsey Ridley of Henderson is strongly considering a run. A prospective fourth Republican candidate, former Hopkins County Attorney Todd P'Pool has announced that he will not run.

Kentucky's 2016 primary election is set for May 17, while January 26 is the filing deadline for major political parties.

UPDATE: 2:30 p.m.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015 by a 289-137 margin. The bill, which could now be considered in the Senate, would put in place tougher restrictions on incoming refugees. Rep. Ed Whitfield voted in favor of the bill.

John Null is the host and creator of Left of the Dial. From 2013-2016, he also served as a reporter in the WKMS newsroom.
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