Trump Fearmongers In Rhode Island With Misleading Claims About Syrian Refugees


During a Monday afternoon rally in Warwick, Rhode Island, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump warned Ocean State residents to “lock your doors” because Syrian refugees, some of whom he thinks might be associated with ISIS, are being resettled in the state.

While reading off Rhode Island factoids from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Trump said, “Here’s one I don’t like… Syrian refugees are now being resettled in Rhode Island.” The audience responded with loud boos.

“We don’t know where they’re from, we don’t know where they’re from, they have no documentation,” Trump continued. “We all have hearts and we can build safe zones in Syria — and we’ll get the Gulf states to put up the money, we’re not putting up the money — but I’ll get that done.”

“Lock your doors folks, okay, lock your doors,” Trump concluded. “There’s no documentation, we have our incompetent government people letting them in by the thousands, and who knows, maybe it’s ISIS. You see what happens with two people that became radicalized in California, where they shot and killed all their coworkers. Not with me, folks, it’s not happening with me.”


While it’s true that Syrian refugees have been resettled in Rhode Island, little else about Trump’s rant is. Trump’s comments imply that refugees admitted to the United States aren’t thoroughly vetted, but that’s not the case. Some refugees spend years gathering documents and being interviewed before they’re allowed to enter the country.

Those background checks have a nearly flawless record of keeping terrorists out. According to the Migration Policy Institute, of the 784,000 refugees resettled in the United States since September 11, 2001, three have been arrested for planning terrorist activities, and none of those three were plotting a credible attack inside the country.

In other words, while it might be wise for Rhode Islanders to lock their doors at night, that isn’t because Syrian refugees are now in their presence.

Trump also misled listeners with the suggestion refugees from the Middle East were somehow responsible for the San Bernardino mass shooting. While investigators concluded the Muslim couple responsible for massacring 14 people were “radicalized,” neither were refugees. Syed Rizwan Farook was an American citizen born in Chicago, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, entered the country legally on a K-1 Visa. Given those facts, it’s unclear how taking a tougher stance toward refugees could’ve done anything to prevent the shooting.

A Public Policy Polling survey published Monday indicates Trump is poised to easily win Tuesday’s Rhode Island primary.


Reprinted with permission from Think Progress, a branch of The Center for American Progress