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Standing for Refugees, Sanders Urges Against Post-Paris 'Demagoguery'

Sanders reiterates support for those fleeing war and violence in Middle East

Bernie Sanders speaks to a rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Monday night. (Photo: Lynn Ischay/The Plain Dealer)

As media pundits, Republican leaders, and more than half of U.S. states moved to slam the door on war refugees from Syria in the wake of attacks in Paris, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders delivered a speech in Cleveland, Ohio on Monday night saying the nation must "not succumb to Islamophobia" or give into such "demagoguery and fear-mongering."

Speaking to a crowd of 7,000 at Cleveland State University, Sanders, who is running for president in 2016 as a Democrat, said that in "these difficult times.... We will not turn our backs on the refugees."

On Monday, more than half of the nation's governors announced their opposition to accepting refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East. The swell of opposition, now numbering 27 states—all but one of whom have a Republican governor—heralded the latest reflexive response from the country's conservative leaders following news that one of the attackers had entered France's borders with a wave of refugees moving through Europe.

"There may be those who will try to take advantage of the generosity of our country and the ability to move freely within our borders through this federal resettlement program, and we must ensure we are doing all we can to safeguard the security of Americans," Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin said Monday.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, who is running for president, also recently stated his opposition to refugee resettlement in the state. In an interview Monday morning with Fox Business, he said, "There is no way that we can put any of our people at risk. Should anybody come in here before the end of the year? The answer to that should be no. We should not jeopardize our people. And so it's not just an issue of the heart. It's also an issue of the head."

Sanders rejected that notion in his speech Tuesday, telling an enthusiastic audience, "What terrorism is about is trying to instill terror and fear into the hearts of people. And we will not let that happen. We will not be terrorized or live in fear."

He also reiterated his support for the construction of an international coalition, including Middle Eastern nations such as Iran and Saudi Arabia and supported by the U.S. and other Western forces, to lead the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).

"I say to my Republican colleagues, yeah, we have got to be tough—but not stupid," Sanders said.

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