Laconia, N.H. – Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio told a group of voters here Monday that radical jihadists are using refugees as cover to infiltrate and gain access to countries like the United States, despite the fact that there is no evidence that refugees pose a risk. When asked what he would do to ensure U.S. national security during the crisis, Rubio endorsed the idea of ‘safe zones’ for refugees fleeing the Islamic State and civil war in Syria.
“I think a better solution is one that the people from the Middle East would agree with: Make it easier for them to stay in that part of the world,” Rubio said to strong applause from an audience of mostly retirees.
He credited Jordan for taking in more than 1 million refugees, but said that other countries in the region need to pick up the slack and take in the outpouring of Syrian refugees. Rubio and fellow Republican candidates oppose an Obama administration plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year – particularly in light of the recent Paris terror attacks.
During the campaign stop, comments related to foreign policy focused on the military. Diplomacy garnered passing mentions, and development was ignored. When asked why development was not discussed, Rubio said it is something he usually brings up in his stump speech, but it left out due to time constraints.
“In countries where there is real and robust economic development, there is less radicalization,” said Rubio.
“Soft power is a real element and its in our national interest, and part of it is because it is the right thing to do,” said Rubio in response to questions about why he supports foreign aid. “I think this country has been blessed for what it has done for the world. And [foreign aid]is only a small percentage of the federal budget.”
His stump speech covered a wide range of issues from the economy to foreign policy. The need to reign in public spending and shrink the government bureaucracy were at the center of the message Rubio wanted to deliver to this audience. But it was national security and terrorism that were at the forefront of the audience questions.
Rubio disagreed vehemently was asked whether he agrees with President Barack Obama’s recent assertion that climate change could define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other. And while Obama did not call climate change an immediate threat, Rubio was quick to say there are greater near-term concerns for the U.S. He listed “radical jihadists”, Iran, North Korea and Russia as more immediate threats.
“No matter how you feel about the issue about the environment, the climate, there’s no way any reasonable person could conclude that the most immediate threat we face to our security is what the climate’s going to look like in 25 or 30 years. It’s just not accurate,” said Rubio.