President Obama addressed the backlash against refugees from Syria during a Monday news conference on the Paris terror attacks.
"Even as we accept more refugees, including Syrians, we do so only after rigorous security checks," Obama said as several U.S. state governors announced they will not accept Syrian refugees. "We also have to remember that many of these refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves. That's what they're fleeing."
"Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both," Obama said.
At least one of the attackers in Paris was found with a Syrian passport — though it is unclear if it actually belonged to him.
"That's not American," Obama said. "That's not who we are. We don't have religious tests to our compassion."
"The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism and most vulnerable," Obama said. "They are parents, they are children, they are orphans, and it is very important that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with issue of terrorism."
Obama addressed his critics who say he has underestimated ISIS's capabilities and ambitions, and asked whether the president's strategy needs to be more aggressive.
"We haven't underestimated their abilities," he said. "That is why we're in Iraq as we speak. It's precisely why we have mobilized 65 countries to go after ISIS."
Obama added that the ISIS's "twisted ideology" and their willingness to die and kill others is what makes defeating them a challenge.
"It's not their sophistication," Obama said. "It's their ideology and willingness to die. The more we shrink that territory, the less they can pretend they are a functioning state and it becomes apparent they are a network of killers that are brutalizing local populations."
The president stood by his previous comment regarding ISIS being "contained," emphasizing that in both Iraq and Syria, ISIS controls less territory than before.
Obama admitted to the country's ambitious goals, saying that "hopes for diplomacy in Syria have been dashed before."
He said the United States firmly believes Assad does not have a role in Syria's future because of his brutal rule.
"For the first time all major countries on all sides of the Syrian conflict agree on the process needed to end the [Syrian civil] war," Obama said. "We will remain relentless on all fronts. We have the right strategy and we're going to see it through."
Tom Namako is the deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tom Namako at email@example.com.
Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Mary Ann Georgantopoulos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.