The number of Syrian Christian refugees the United States has taken in is extremely small.

And yet this is a group that ought logically to be first in line because members face the most obvious danger and persecution—not only in Syria, but in several Arab or Muslim countries to which they might have fled. Syrian Christians would also have little chance of being terrorists.

We already have seen how little Obama has said or done about the plight of Christians in the Middle East today, both rhetorically and in terms of action.

So it’s no stretch to imagine that the lack of Syrian Christian refugees may be the result of a deliberate policy of this administration. However, at least some of the lack of Christians among the Middle Eastern refugees to the US is a reflection of the way the system works vis-a-vis the UN, which usually does the initial vetting for us—a system that, by the way, desperately needs changing:

The gross underrepresentation of the non-Muslim communities in the numbers of Syrian refugees into the U.S. is reflected year after year in the State Department’s public records. They show, for example, that while Syria’s largest non-Muslim group — Christians of the various Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions — constituted 10 percent of Syria’s population before the war, they are only 2.6 percent of the 2,003 Syrian refugees that the United States has accepted since then. Syria’s Christian population, which before the war numbered 2 million, has since 2011 been decimated in what Pope Francis described as religious “genocide.”…

Instead, minorities have difficulty getting to step one in the U.N. process. The religious terror that drove them from Syria blocks their registering. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is largely limited to collecting refugee applications and making resettlement referrals from its own camps and centers…In an e-mail to me, Knox Thames, the State Department’s new special adviser for religious minorities, wrote that “many minorities have not entered the UN system because they are urban refugees.” That is, because they live far from the remote U.N. camps and aid centers, they lack the information and access to register. And, as is widely known, many non-Muslim refugees try hard to avoid these camps…

According to British media, a terrorist defector asserted that militants enter U.N. camps to assassinate and kidnap Christians. An American Christian aid group reported that the U.N. camps are “dangerous” places where ISIS, militias, and gangs traffic in women and threaten men who refuse to swear allegiance to the caliphate. Such intimidation is also reportedly evident in migrant camps in Europe, leading the German police union to recommend separate shelters for Christian and Muslim migrant groups…

…[M]any Christian refugees will “not be included in the [U.N.] camp referrals” because they have had to leave the camps after “cruelties inflicted upon them” there.

So by relying mostly on the UN and its refugee camps to select the refugees they house and to funnel them to us, the US practically guarantees that very few Christians will be among them.

Unless the government changes that policy, and reaches out to seek Christian refugees from other sources, that will continue to be the case—which appears to suit President Obama just fine.

I’ve been trying to answer the question of exactly when it was that the United Nations and UN-run refugee camps became the main source of refugees to the US.

It hasn’t been easy to locate that information, but our modern policy towards refugees seems to rest on a bill that was passed during the Carter administration and sponsored by Ted Kennedy. The 1980 bill established the UN definition of “refugee” as our definition of the term, set up an office to be in charge of refugees to the US, and specified rules for treating them once they were in this country:

With [Ted Kennedy’s] proposal, he hoped to address the need for a reformed, non need-based policy that was not specifically designed for people from communist regimes in Eastern Europe or repressive governments in the Middle East, as it was in the past. At the time, there was an average of 200,000 refugees coming to the United States, most of which were Indochinese and Soviet Jews. Many Americans feared a floodgate scenario with a large and sudden increase of the refugee population, but the 50,000 cap would only account for 10% of immigration flow to the U.S. and would allow one refugee for every 4,000 Americans, small numbers compared to those of countries like Canada, France and Australia. The bill was adopted by the Senate by a unanimous vote…

That “floodgate” scenario seems to have come to pass in recent years, whatever the original projections of the bill’s designers. For example, the U.S. took in two-thirds of the refugees resettled all over the world in 2014.

As the incidence of terrorism has risen in Muslim countries, and support for it has grown, the refugee system that was designed in a different time no longer works in our best interests, cries of “xenophobia” notwithstanding.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.