U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., says the United States risks losing credibility and appearing cold-hearted unless the country shelters Syrian refugees fleeing their war-torn land.
Murphy is recommending the U.S. government accept 50,000 Syrian refugees and fully fund a United Nations program that has been struggling to provide food aid to millions of displaced Syrians who have fled violence in their country.
He made the recommendations during a conference call with state and national reporters Tuesday afternoon concerning his recently completed trip to the Middle East.
"We can take tens of thousands of refugees safely onto American soil, and we better do it fast because this situation is spiraling out of control, not just for Europe but for the refugees on the ground," Murphy said.
He said the U.S. may not be viewed as an honest and serious peace broker unless it accepts Syrian refugees. If not, he warned, the failure to help resolve the refugee crisis will be costly.
"Ultimately, the cost is to America's credibility in the region," he said.
MURPHY SAID the U.S. is ideally poised now because of the agreement that the country and five other world powers negotiated with Iran to lift international economic sanctions in return for limits on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.
"After this nuclear agreement, we are going to be in a more important position than ever to try to broker peace inside Iraq, or Syria, or Yemen, but any legitimacy that is added to the United States by the enactment of this nuclear deal is going to be stolen from us by our cold-heartedness on the Syrian humanitarian crisis," he said.
Some Republicans in Congress have expressed concerns that allowing in Syrian refugees would open a pipeline for terrorists.
Murphy said all Syrians would be carefully screened before being welcomed into the U.S.
He said his recent consultations with leaders from Iraq, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar reconfirmed that many in the Middle East hold the U.S. responsible for the violence and turmoil in Syria and Iraq.
"People in the region, they want the Europeans to step up, but they place the blame at the feet of the United States. Our partners in the region look at the United States and tell us quite simply, 'You broke it. Now, you have to fix it,'" he said.
THE TRIP INCLUDED a visit to the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.
"That camp is a hellhole," Murphy said. "We have been warehousing Syrians there for years. They have absolutely given up hope."
He pledged to work with congressional colleagues to find a more robust humanitarian response from the U.S. and put more pressure on European allies to also do more.