John Gregory -- Illinois Radio Network

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says the ideas from Republican presidential candidates on how to handle the Syrian refugee crisis are "an embarrassment."

Donald Trump says he could consider shutting down mosques and making all Muslims register with the federal government. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) says only Christian Syrian refugees should be allowed into the U.S.

Durbin isn't shy about bashing those suggestions.

"It is an embarrassment to think that in the 21st century, someone would run for President of the United States and not understand the heritage and values of this country," Durbin said. "We are a country that has been a land of religious opportunity from the start, and when they start wanting to discriminate against certain religions, it is as un-American as anything they could say."

Durbin blames the Republican presidential field for the calls to block Syrian refugees from entering the U.S., with the majority of governors--including Gov. Bruce Rauner--saying their states wouldn't accept them.

After next week's Thanksgiving recess, the Senate is likely to take up a House bill which suspends the program allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S. until federal agencies can certify those people aren't a security risk. Durbin hopes to gain enough support from Democrats to uphold a promised presidential veto on the legislation.

Durbin does have security concerns about people entering the country, but not as refugees. He says Congress should be focusing on the visa waiver program, which admits about 20 million visitors to the U.S. every year without the long vetting process refugees are put through.

"We can make America safer by taking a closer look at the visa waiver program and making certain that we are checking fingerprints on the people that are coming and visiting this country," Durbin said.

Durbin has already introduced legislation aiming to close what he calls a loophole allowing people visiting from visa-waiver countries to buy guns while in the U.S.

More From WROK 1440 AM / 96.1 FM