KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz on Monday called the Obama administration's plan to accept refugees from war-torn Syria "nothing short of crazy," because he believes some are Islamic State terrorists.
"There is a reason the director of national intelligence said among those refugees are no doubt a significant number of ISIS terrorists," the Texas senator told a crowd of hundreds in a Michigan campaign stop, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. "It would be the height of foolishness to bring in tens of thousands of people including jihadists that are coming here to murder innocent Americans."
In fact, National Intelligence Director James Clapper has not confirmed that the refugee wave includes significant numbers of terrorists.
He has spoken of the risk of terrorists mingling in, saying last month: "We don't obviously put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees." ISIL is an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group.
Clapper said the U.S. was aggressively screening the small number of Syrian refugees it has accepted.
The Obama administration said it intends to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees and increase the overall number of refugees allowed into the country from around the world to 85,000 in the next 12 months. That total would increase to 100,000 by 2017. The U.S. now accepts up to 70,000 refugees per year.
Michigan's Gov. Rick Snyder, also a Republican, is talking with federal officials about what the state can do to accept more Syrian refugees.
"Isn't it part of our nature as Americans to say, 'How can we help people in need?'" he asked last week.
The Detroit area has one of the largest Middle Eastern populations in the country.
GOP candidate Ben Carson also has said the U.S. should bar refugees from Syria because they are "infiltrated" with Muslim extremists. Another rival, Donald Trump, has pledged to send Syrian refugees home.
Cruz said the Islamic State rose to power "in the face of American weakness." The refugees should be resettled in the Middle East in majority Muslim countries, he said.
In Michigan campaigning for the state's March 8 presidential primary, Cruz said he is the "real conservative" among 15 Republicans still running, citing his efforts in Washington to stop the federal health care law, Obama's order granting temporary legal status to millions of immigrants and money to Planned Parenthood.
Gregg Stephenson, a 59-year-old former automotive technician from Gowen, northeast of Grand Rapids, said he likes Cruz's combative tactics and stance against illegal immigration.
"We need somebody that stands up for us," he said.
Follow David Eggert at http://twitter.com/DavidEggert00