The PJ Tatler

Senator: Use Rebel-Training Money to Bring More Syrian Refugees Here

A Connecticut Democrat said the Obama administration proposal to take at least 10,000 Syrian refugees is way too low if you look at historical precedent.

Sen. Chris Murphy told MSNBC that he visited a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan over the congressional recess.

“Eighty thousand people, more than half of those are children. A handful of them are in school. But most of them aren’t because they’re out on the streets working for pennies in order to help feed their families,” Murphy said. “The girls that are there often are sold into marriage by the time they’re 12 or 13 in order to make a little bit of money for their family and other kids we saw were digging trenches where feces and sewage run through the middle of the camp, 250 are leaving every single day because they’re going back to Syria, because they’ve been sitting in this camp for two to three years with absolutely no hope. And they’re willing to basically put their lives back at risk inside Syria rather than face that reality for the next 2 to 3 years.”

“And they’re all looking to the United States for help. And we’ve got to deliver it to them.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday that President Obama “informed his team that he would like them to accept — at least make preparations to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year.”

In the fiscal year that ends this month, “the United States is on track to take in about 1,500 Syrian refugees.”

“Now, we know the scale of this problem. It’s significant,” Earnest said. “And there are millions of people who have been driven from their homes because of this violence. We know that it certainly is not feasible for millions of Syrians to come to this country. But what we can do is make sure that we are doing everything we can to try to provide for their basic needs.”

Murphy said “the number’s clearly too low, but it’s all the administration can do with the money they have.”

“This is expensive to do the vetting, especially the vetting necessary to make sure we’re bringing people here safely,” the senator said. “But compare that to what we’ve done in the past. During Vietnam, we brought 190,000 Vietnamese here. During the Balkans conflict, we brought 180,000 people from that sector of the world. So, this isn’t living up to historic standards.”

“It does take long. But we need to make sure we get this right. And frankly, for the people in those camps, if they know there’s a chance they’re going to be able to get out of that region and be able to lead some sort of normal life here in the United States, that will give them the hope that will stop them from bringing their children back into zones that put their whole families at risk inside Syria.”

Murphy said that then makes the “hope” number “more like 40,000, or 50,000 or 60,000” instead of 10,000.

He suggested upping the refugee resettlement budget by using money the administration is “throwing down the drain” on training Syrian rebels.

“Now, we blame it on our partners and say that, well, the U.S. is the most generous donor. But the reality is when we create a military objective, we allocate every single dollar that we need in order to pursue it. But when we go after humanitarian cause, the United States says we’ll put in our share and we kind of blame everybody else for not doing theirs,” Murphy said.

“It’s just this double standard of foreign policy that we have in which we fully fund our military activities and then we shortchange our humanitarian activities. It comes in a huge human cost in the region and ultimately a cost to our credibility.”