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Sanders: ‘We Will Not Turn Our Backs’ on Refugees

As various American politicians work to draft racist legislation, Bernie Sanders is calling on the country to focus on refugees in need and to avoid buying into the racist rhetoric that is currently infecting mainstream America.

“During these difficult times, as Americans, we will not succumb to racism, we will not allow ourselves to be divided and succumb to Islamophobia,” Sanders said in Cleveland.

“And when hundreds of thousands of people have lost everything, have nothing left but the shirts on their backs, we will not turn our backs on the refugees from Syria and Afghanistan.”

The Hill reports:

Most GOP presidential candidates, and a handful of Republican governors, have come out against accepting refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war out of fear that terrorists could slip into the country to stage an attack.

Sanders went on to criticize Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who said in response to the Paris attacks that killed more than 100 people that he’s never seen a president “project such weakness on the global stage” like Obama has.

“Back in 2002, we had a president, President [George W.] Bush… We had a president and he was very very tough but not very smart,” Sanders said.

“I say to my Republican colleagues, yeah we’ve got to be tough, but not stupid. Yes, we need to create a worldwide coalition that will defeat ISIS. But no, the United States of America must not be involved in perpetual warfare in the Middle East.”

Sanders’ campaign has embraced a largely economic message until the Friday night attacks. During Saturday night’s debate, while rivals Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley both devoted their entire opening remarks to the Paris attacks, Sanders devoted only two sentences before transitioning to his economic message.

Sanders seemed to push back against criticism he received for diverting from the foreign policy message.

“There are those, including many Republicans, some in the media, who think that because of this horrific attack, the only thing we should focus on is defeating ISIS,” he said of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which has taken credit for the terror attacks.

“Yes, we will lead the world in defeating ISIS, but at the same time, we will rebuild the disappearing middle class of this country. We are a great nation and we can accomplish both goals.”

The Vermont senator’s campaign rally also included some implicit digs at Hillary Clinton, who is leading Sanders in national polling as well as in the key early voting state of Iowa.

Nina Turner, the Democratic state representative from Ohio who just switched her endorsement from Clinton to Sanders last week, introduced him at the event. She encouraged supporters not to “listen to the pundits” who say Sanders can’t win.

And while rattling off his organization’s strength, Sanders nodded at the surge that brought the senator within striking distance of the candidate once seen as the inevitable nominee.

“This country faces some very serious problems,” he said, “and the American people are catching on that establishment politics and establishment economics is not going to solve those problems.”

Photo credit: Salon.

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