IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: MSNBC’S RACHEL MADDOW
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WASHINGTON – In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow just days after visiting a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), recounted his experience at the camp and reaffirmed his request that the United States increase humanitarian assistance and capacity to accept tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. Yesterday, Murphy – who is Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism – called on the U.S. Congress to immediately pass an emergency appropriations bill to enhance U.S. humanitarian support for Syria.
Below is the full text of Murphy’s exchange with Rachel Maddow:
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow: Joining us now is a Democratic U.S. Senator who is calling on the United States to take not 10,000 refugees, but tens of thousands of these refugees who are caught up in this current crisis. He, in fact, is just back from the largest Syrian refugee camp anywhere, which is in Jordan. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut joins us now. Senator, thanks very much for being with us.
Senator Murphy: Thanks for having me.
Rachel Maddow: Can you tell me a little bit about what you saw on your trip abroad and how it affected how you feel on this issue?
Senator Murphy: Well, we spent a morning in the biggest Syrian refugee camp. 80,000 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. The girls that are there often are sold into marriage by the time that they're twelve or thirteen 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. Two-hundred fifty 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 two to three years. And they're all looking to the United States for help, and we've got to deliver it to them.
Rachel Maddow: Well, I had a couple of complicated, mixed, and contrary feelings when I heard this news today from the White House. First of all, 1,500 to 10,000 is numerically a large increase in terms of what the United States is planning on taking in. Proportionally, 10,000 is very small compared to what we're seeing from other similar countries and big strong economies. I also had feelings about the refugee process, which, in terms of the way it's designed in the United States – and I understand why it is that way – it takes a long time. It takes a year and a half or two years on average for anybody to clear the refugee process. That just seems like it's too slow a fix. It’s too slow a lifeline to throw these folks. How do you feel about those conflicting feelings?
Senator Murphy: So 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, but compare that to what we've done in the past. During Vietnam, we brought 190,000 Vietnamese here, during the Balkan conflicts, we brought 180,000 people from that sector of the world. So this just isn't living up to historic standards. It does take long, but we need to make sure that we get this right. And frankly, for the people in those camps, if they know that 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. So the hope that comes with a number that's not 10,000, but is more like 40- or 50- or 60,000, would be a game-changer in and of itself inside these camps.
Rachel Maddow: The White House took great pains to say that when it comes to giving money – not just opening the door, but giving money – to help support refugees in the places they already are. And refugee camps particularly in places like Jordan, which is obviously a very close U.S. ally, that nobody's doing more than the United States. Do you feel like, in addition to trying to take in more people ourselves, that the money we're spending to try to support the refugee process is being well spent? And do you think we should we be spending more of it?
Senator Murphy: I think we should be spending more money on bringing more refugees here. I proposed today that we should effectively be taking all of this money that we're throwing down the drain training rebels who are refusing to fight once they go back into Syria and use that money on bringing more refugees. But we also have a World Food Program that has run out of money inside places like Jordan. We aren't feeding millions of refugees that live outside of these camps because we're not putting in money. Now, we blame it on our partners and say, 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, yet when we go after a humanitarian cause, the United States says we'll put in our share and we’ll kind of blame everybody else for not doing theirs. 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 at a huge human cost in the region and ultimately a cost to our credibility.
Rachel Maddow: Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Thanks for telling us about your position on this but also sharing with us that experience from when you were just over there. Thanks for being here tonight.
Senator Murphy: Thanks, Rachel.
Rachel Maddow: Appreciate it. Senator Murphy is a young senator – represents Connecticut, obviously – and he hasn't been in the senate very long, but he's casting a really deep shadow. A long shadow and a deep shadow in terms of being an aggressive and very thoughtful voice on the Democratic side on national security and foreign policy issues in a way that I hear about, in a complimentary way, from lots of Republicans who don't agree with him but who appreciate how serious he's taking the issue and how much space he’s taking up on this issue in Democratic politics. So, anyway, I like him. We’ll be right back.