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"We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic,” Obama told reporters in Manila, Philippines, after a meeting at the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit with President Benigno Aquino. “We don't make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks.
"Apparently, they are scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America," the president said. "At first they were too scared of the press being too tough on them in the debates. Now they are scared of 3-year-old orphans. That doesn't seem so tough to me."
Responding to a proposal from Sen. Ted Cruz to limit refugees to Christians, the president flatly rejected the Texas Republican’s belief the country should apply a religious test to potential refugees.
"When individuals say we should have a religious test and that only Christians, proven Christians, should be admitted, that's offensive,” Obama said. “It needs to stop; because the world is watching,” he added.
The White House wants the United States to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees next year, but governors in more than two dozen states want to block refugees from resettling in their states.
The White House hosted a nearly 90-minute conference call Tuesday with 34 governors to discuss the refugee resettlement process, including detailing the screening and security vetting process.
"The administration officials reiterated what the president has made abundantly clear: that his top priority is the safety of the American people," the White House said in a readout of the meeting.
"That’s why, even as the United States accepts more refugees, including Syrians, we do so only after they undergo the most rigorous screening and security vetting of any category of traveler to the United States."