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Ben Carson Says A Screening Mechanism Needed To Resettle Syrians

Republican Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson answers questions at a news conference Tuesday in San Francisco.
Eric Risberg
Republican Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson answers questions at a news conference Tuesday in San Francisco.

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said he would require background checks on all Syrian migrants and war refugees before allowing them into the United States.

Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, told NPR's Scott Simon that terrorists could be hiding among the hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees currently flooding Europe. The Obama administration has said it will resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. over the next year.

"We have to recognize that this is a splendid opportunity for the global jihadists to infiltrate those numbers with members of their own organization," Carson said. "So we would have to have in place a very excellent screening mechanism. Until we had such a mechanism in place, we should not be bringing anybody in."

If such a screening system were in place, he said, "I would admit people that we need, people that can boost our economy based on their skills and what they bring in, and I don't know what that number is."

New polls this week show Carson running a strong second among registered Republicans for their party's presidential nomination; some show him ahead of Democrat Hillary Clinton in a potential national contest for president.

In his interview with Simon, Carson spoke more about refugees, as well as health care, religion in campaigns and his recent tour of Ferguson, Mo.

Interview Highlights

On what he learned from the people of Ferguson

I came away with the idea that respect is the really the solution. We need to teach young people to respect authority, particularly respect the law. And we need to teach the law to respect the people. One lady was telling about a situation where there were 100 police officers on the block with armored vehicles, and she came out and asked one of the officers what was going on and he said, "Oh, nothing. Go back in the house." You know, that's not showing respect to people.

On his health care proposal

It would be vastly different [from Obamacare]. I would use health savings accounts, paid for with the very same dollars that pay for traditional health care with. It would give people enormous flexibility to shift money within their family. So that'll take care of three-quarters of the American population. It doesn't take care of the indigents. But how do we take care of them now? Medicaid. We can craft something that works very well. I know a lot of people in Washington would say, "Well, indigent people can't manage a health savings account. They're too stupid." But they're not too stupid. Somebody has a diabetic foot ulcer, they learn very quickly not to go to the emergency room where it costs five times more to take care of it. They go to the clinic. It's a whole other level of savings which we are not achieving right now ...

On whether being a surgeon prepared him to be president

Not in and of itself, but I think planning, utilizing a lot of resources, a lot of other people, to do complex things — even things that have never been done before — certainly helps ... I think it's a fallacy that only people in elected office can come up with solutions to solve our problems. I just think there's a different paradigm.

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