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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Several Republican presidential candidates insisted Syrian refugees pose a potential danger to America and should not be allowed into the country, despite growing criticism within and outside their party of some of their statements.
Debate over the Obama administration's plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year has intensified since the Nov. 13 attacks by Islamic State in Paris that killed 130 people.
Appearing on Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Donald Trump was asked if he was ruling out a database to track all Muslims, a move that previous reports said he favored.
"No, not at all," he said.
But then he suggested the database would focus more on refugees than Muslim Americans.
"I want a database for the refugees," Trump said. "We have no idea who these people are. When the Syrian refugees are going to start pouring into this country, we don't know if they're ISIS, we don't know if it's a Trojan horse. And I definitely want a database and other checks and balances."
Ohio Governor John Kasich, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press", continued his attack on Trump's database comments.
"I flat out condemned the idea that we were going to have Muslims register," he said. "The idea that we're going to repel an entire group of people on the basis of their religion, it's nonsense."
Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie defended his argument that the administration cannot be trusted to vet refugees, adding "orphans under the age of 5" should not be admitted to the country because there is no one to care for them.
"The FBI director himself said they can't vet these folks," Christie said on CNN's "State of the Union" when asked about his comments regarding children.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said he does not think the vetting process, which can take up to two years, would deter an ISIS fighter.
"The United States is the ultimate prize in their mind," Rubio said.
Trump did back away from comments he made on Tuesday that the United States was "going to have no choice" but to close mosques.
On Sunday, Trump said: "I don’t want to close mosques; I want to surveil mosques."
Trump also repeated his support for renewing the use of waterboarding, calling the torture technique "peanuts" compared to the beheadings conducted by ISIS.
Ben Carson, who faced criticism this week for comparing Syrian refugees to "rabid dogs," would not say whether he would reinstate the use of waterboarding.
Reporting by Ginger Gibson, Alana Wise and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Stephen Powell and Jonathan Oatis