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Clinton Says US Should Spend Whatever It Takes to Scrutinize Incoming Syrian Refugees

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton // Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Following Friday's Paris attacks, Presidential contender Hillary Clinton said the U.S. country should admit 65,000 Syrian refugees, as long they undergo the most careful background checks imaginable.

In September, President Barack Obama decided to allow 10,000 individuals fleeing Bashar al-Assad's regime into the country, up from fewer than 2,000 this year.

It is expected that some Western countries now likely will refuse entry to Syrian refugees, after the Nov. 13 terrorist shootings and explosions that killed about 130 people and seriously injured an additional 100 individuals. 

But in the second Democratic debate held Saturday night, the three candidates expressed support for welcoming in displaced Syrians.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Friday night issued a statement, saying at that time, there was “no specific or credible threats of an attack on the U.S. homeland" known similar to the assaults on Paris. DHS and the FBI are communicating with local law enforcement agencies and at-risk industries to update one another, he added. 

Screening "is the No. 1 requirement” for Syrians seeking to enter the United States, Clinton said during the debate. The nation should accept them “only if we have as careful a screening and vetting process as we can imagine, whatever resources it takes, because I do not want us to in any way inadvertently allow people who wish us harm to come into our country," she said. 

Clinton did not propose specific techniques for checking their backgrounds. 

DHS U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that processes refugee applications, requires fingerprint biometrics from Syrians and other foreigners seeking protection, according to the agency's website. 

Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., did not have a position on how many Syrians should be let in. However, he said the United States must shoulder some of the burden of relocating the displaced foreigners. 

The “United States has the moral responsibility, with Europe, with Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, to make sure that when people leave countries like Afghanistan and Syria with nothing more than the clothing on their back” that they are aided, Sanders said.

Democratic candidate and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said the nation should not restrict Syrian refugees because of the Paris terrorist attacks. Accepting them “needs to be done with proper screening, but accommodating 65,000 refugees in our country today, a people of 320 million, is akin to making room for 6-and-a-half more people in a baseball stadium with 32,000,” he said.

According to DHS, last year, Citizenship and Immigration Services performed security checks for about 67,000 refugee applicants from around the world total

The Obama administration has requested $4 billion to fund Citizenship and Immigration Services in 2016, which is roughly $1 billion more spent on the agency in 2014, according to White House budget documents

Administration officials have said it is not necessary to ask for additional money to reach Obama’s goal of accepting at least 10,000 Syrian refugees.

Appearing on Fox and Friends on Saturday, Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, characterized bringing tens of thousands of "Syria Muslim refugees" to America as "nothing less than lunacy.”

However, Cruz added, "Christians who are being targeted for genocide for persecution, Christians that are being beheaded or crucified" should be provided safe haven in the United States. 

Nextgov's sister publication Defense One reported in October that "officials at more than a dozen agencies could not point to any specific or credible case, data, or intelligence assessment indicating that Syrian refugees pose a threat” to the United States.

French authorities allege terrorists linked to the extremist ISIS group are responsible for Friday’s bloodshed. 

At least one of the at least 10 suspected killers was a French national. But at one site targeted, a stadium where French President François Hollande was attending a soccer match, officials found the passport of a Syrian man who had entered Europe as a refugee in Greece, The Washington Post reported. Officials had not yet confirmed the document was connected to one of two suicide bombers who ignited themselves at the event. 

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