As the nation argues about whether or not to accept Syrian refugees – especially now that it appears at least two of the Paris attackers used forged passports to re-enter Europe, using the migrant crisis as a Trojan Horse – some details about who we’ve already accepted seem to show a “refugee system” that’s hopelessly stacked against those who need refuge the most: Arab Christians.
According to a recent count, the US has accepted around two thousand Muslim refugees from Syria but only 53 Syrian Christians, even though Christians seem to be faring the worst against ISIS across the Arab penninsula. The bias seems to be a product of the process itself, being handled by the United Nations, who haven’t taken the continued safety of Arab Christians into account as they amass Syrian refugees in processing camps.
President Obama said Monday that calls from some quarters for the U.S. to admit only Christian refugees from Syria were “shameful,” yet the reality is that today’s refugee system discriminates, not against Syrian Muslims, but against Christians and other non-Muslim minorities.
Critics say this is because the federal government relies on the United Nations in the refugee application process – and since Syrian Christians are often afraid to register with the U.N., they and other non-Muslims are left out.
Fleeing persecution at the hands of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other jihadist groups, Syrian Christians generally avoid U.N. refugee camps because they are targeted there too.
Most refugees considered for resettlement in the U.S. are referred by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Refugees who are referred to the US State Department through the UN are then processed through a State Department post somewhere in the world, vetted by DHS and then allowed to proceed to the US, a system that takes about 18 months to navigate.
Even before the Internet exploded with people arguing the merits of a mass Syrian immigration to the United States, efforts were underway in Congress to make the asylum-seeking process more equitable and prioritizing those who many consider to be the most vulnerable: Syrian Christians. Just last month, Rep. Michael McCaul also introduced a bill that would allow for an up-or-down vote on the Obama Administration’s refugee plan, that would require the Administration, should they put their plan to accept 10,000 new refugees into motion, to consider victims of “religious persecution” first, particularly members of religious minority groups in Syria in Iraq, before others. Obviously, you can tell what the public relations reaction to these bills has been.
In total, the US has given some $4 billion in aid to the Syrian refugee crisis and those who are assisting it. And there’s nothing wrong with accepting Syrian refugees here, so long as there’s an adequate way to process them with our national security in mind. Yes, we’d love to be compassionate human beings, but while individuals can express that sort of compassion, the government isn’t tasked with “following its heart” – it’s tasked with protecting the people who live within it. So far, DHS has dragged its feet on instituing a more solid processing system, pending the Administration’s fight to allow more refugees into the states, and it may take a year or more for it to roar into action as of now. And when it does, it is only fair that it take into account those who need safety the most, not simply accept people en masse.
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