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Sen. Tom Cotton: U.S. Discriminates against Christian Refugees

Arkansas U.S. Senator Tom Cotton “broke news” today that the U.S. “inadvertently” discriminates against  Christians among Syrian Refugee Admissions.

Map of States Opposing Syrian Refugees  Daily Signal Heritage Foundation 11-17-15

At least that is the impression lent  by the Washington Times, report  this morning,  “U.S. ‘discriminates’ against Christian refugees, accepts 96% Muslims, 3% Christians:”

Less than 3 percent of the Syrian refugees admitted to the United States so far are Christian and 96 percent are Muslim, the result of a referral system that Republican Sen. Tom Cotton says “unintentionally discriminates” against Christians.

State Department figures released Monday showed that the current system overwhelmingly favors Muslim refugees. Of the 2,184 Syrian refugees admitted to the United States so far, only 53 are Christians while 2,098 are Muslim, the Christian News Service reported.

Mr. Cotton and Sen. John Boozman, both Arkansas Republicans, called Monday for a moratorium on resettlements, a White House report on vetting procedures, and a re-evaluation of the refugee-referral process.

“[T]he United States’ reliance on the United Nations for referrals of Syrian refugees should also be re-evaluated,” said Mr. Cotton in a statement. “That reliance unintentionally discriminates against Syrian Christians and other religious minorities who are reluctant to register as refugees with the United Nations for fear of political and sectarian retribution.”

The current system relies on referrals from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Syria’s population in 2011 was 90 percent Muslim and 10 percent Christian, CNS said.

Mr. Cotton and Mr. Boozman called Monday for a temporary moratorium on resettlements and “a requirement that the President certify the integrity of the security vetting process as a condition of lifting the moratorium.”

“The American people have long demonstrated unmatched compassion for the world’s persecuted and endangered. But when bringing refugees to our shores, the U.S. government must put the security of Arkansans and all Americans first,” Mr. Cotton said. “No terrorist should be able to take advantage of the refugee process to threaten the United States.”

This confirms what Mike Bates and I reported in our June 2015 New English Review with Ann Corcoran. See: Trojan Horse Federal Refugee ProgramNote this exchange:

Gordon:  Ann, one of the most disturbing parts of this U.N. controlled program is the patent discrimination against endangered Christian refugees, legitimately, from places like Syria, Iraq and other locations. What is the evidence of that?

Corcoran:  Let’s just take the Syrian refugee issue. So far the State Department has brought in a small number of Syrians, relatively speaking, into the country. One would think that we would be choosing first and foremost the Christians who are in real danger. But we are bringing mostly Sunni Muslims. There were about 800 Syrians who have been brought into the country in the last few years. Now the State Department and the U.N. have 11,000 in the pipeline waiting to come into the U.S.

But of the 800 that have come in so far, approximately 700 are Sunni Muslims, there were only 43 Christians among the Syrian refugees that have come in so far. That translates to approximately 92 percent of refugees coming in from Syria are Muslims.

I’m told that that is mostly because we are bringing them in from U.N. camps, where the Muslims are found.  Christians do not go to the U.N. camps, but to Turkey if they get out of Syria at all, where they’re taken care of by the Syriac church.

That pattern of Christians avoiding UN refugee camps was also cited in our interview with Joseph Kassab of the Iraqi Christian Advocacy and Empowerment Institute in the November NER, Iraqi Christians Face Extinction:

Gordon:  What are the current conditions of Iraqi Christian refugee camps in the Kurdish Region and what kinds of assistance are they receiving?

Kassab:  The current conditions for Iraqi Christian IDPs are very chaotic and horrific. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is doing its best to provide for them. However, they are unable to absorb more than 3 million refugees from Syria and Yazidis in their region. The Iraqi government has done nothing for its citizen IDPs. Corruption is very high among the Iraqi government officials and that by itself makes distribution of relief to its IDPs very poor. The UN and humanitarian local and international NGOs are unable to function properly due to lack of coordination and efficient capacity. Therefore people are losing hope and are availing of any opportunity to escape abroad. Christians are urban refugees-IDPs meaning that they do not live in UN refugee camps. Instead they seek shelter with relatives, in unfinished buildings, parks and churches. Overall, this support can be very short lived because volunteering always has a sunset.

Nina Shea of the Washington, DC-based Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom in a separate Fox News.com report added:

The UN is basically unloading; it’s emptying out its camps. It’s not seeking those who are outside its camps, much less giving affirmative action for those who are facing genocide. It’s just an expedience measure for those who are in their own camps, so non-Muslim minorities are poorly represented among them.

What is confounding was the petulant response of President Obama at his Antalya G20 Summit press conference on this matter. His remarks were allegedly directed at US Texas Senator Ted Cruz for having the effrontery to suggest that Syrian Christians and other threatened non-Muslim minorities be granted some preference for Refugee Admissions and Muslims sent to Muslim majority countries. The Washington Timesreported that, “at his G20 news conference Monday in Turkey, President Obama described as ‘shameful’ the idea of giving religious preferences to refugees.”That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion,’ Mr. Obama said.”

We would suggest that the President bone up on how the UN controls who gets admitted as  humanitarian refugees in America. That American taxpayers are funding this plenary program run by executive fiat under the Refugee Act of 1980 co-authored by Vice President Biden and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. It is time for Congress urged on by more than 27 Governors concerned about admission of possible terrorist refugees to do something. That is why US House Speaker Pat Ryan proposed a “pause” in the Syrian Refugee Program.  If  you listen to Deputy National Security Adviser, Ben Rhodes,  Anne Richards, assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, they would have you believe that the 10,000 Syrian Refugees bring brought here in the current fiscal year were all vetted.

This morning I listened to a news conference convened by Voluntary Agencies and NGOs to combat the concerns of the more than two dozen governors.  They represented that the UNHCR has an advanced retina scanning biometric system capable of capturing information to track the millions of displaced Syrian refugees in their camps. That DHS is capable of checking the records of these Syrian refugees despite evidence that documents may either not exist or are forged. Further, that if the Governors of states do not participate in resettlement programs that these very same Voluntary agencies stand ready to make more money to distribute them. Moreover, that if states deny those benefits to refugee clients, the clients with their green cards can simply pick up like any other US citizen and move to another state.  To top things off, they represented that no terrorists have been admitted as refugees.  They obviously forgot  about the  refugee Tsarneav brothers who perpetrated the bloody Boston Marathon bombing. Or the two Iraqi asylees, caught in a 2011 FBI sting in Kentucky purchasing weapons to be sent to Al Qaeda.  Then think of the dozens of Soimali emigre youths recruited by radical Imams to fight and die for Al Shabaab in Somalia. Consider  the Somali emigre aircraft cleaner who had the run of the Twin Cities airport who left to fight and die for ISIS in Syria. Listen to this Syrian Refugee Admissions press conference.

Yesterday, we reported that Florida Governor Rick Scott sent a letter to US House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggesting that for all intent and purposes state governors have no legal standing to contest the Refugee Admissions Program, but that Congress does. He wrote:

It is our understanding that the state does not have the authority to prevent the federal government from funding the relocation of these Syrian refugees to Florida even without state   support.  Therefore, we are asking the United States Congress to take immediate and aggressive action to prevent President Obama and his administration from using any federal tax dollars to fund the relocation of up to 425 Syrian refugees (the total possible number of refugees pending for state relocation support at this time) to Florida, or anywhere in the United States, without an extensive evaluation of the risk these individuals may pose to our national security.

As the federal elected body that exercises oversight and authorizes federal spending, please take any action available through the powers of the United States Congress to prevent federal allocations toward the relocation of Syrian refugees without extensive examination into how this would affect our homeland security.

Note what my Florida State House Representative, Mike Hill, a graduate of the US Air Force Academy and veteran  said in a Pensacola News Journal article on the Governor’s action:

If they come from a country that fosters, supports or defends terrorism as a legitimate activity to achieve a goal, then it doesn’t matter if there is a small number or large number of refugees coming from those nations. We must refuse them entry without a robust vetting process, which we currently do not have.

The first test of that may come on Thursday at a House Immigration Sub Committee Hearing Chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy.  The lineup of witnesses includes:

Ms. Anne C. Richard (Invited)
Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, United States Department of State

Ms. Barbara L. Strack (Invited)
Chief, Refugee Affairs Division, Refugee, Asylum, and International Operations Directorate
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

Mr. Seth Jones
Director
International Security and Defense Policy Center, RAND Corporation

Mr. Mark Krikorian
Executive Director
Center for Immigration Studies

Mr. Mark Hetfield
President and Chief Executive Officer
HIAS  (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, one of nine federal resettlement contractors)

Let’s see if the US Refugee Admissions Program executives at the State Department and DHS/ICE show up for this House Immigration Committee hearing. Stay tuned for developments.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

U.S. State Department Denies Middle East Christians Refugee Status

iraqi christiansThe NER November edition interview with U.S. Iraqi Christian leader Joseph T. Kassab, “Iraqi Christians Face Extinction” is illustrated by the experience of Syrian Christians  Nina Shea of the Center for Religious Freedom writes about them in a National Review on-line article published, today,  “The State Department Turns Its Back on Syrian Christians and Other Non-Muslim Refugees.”  Shea’s bottom line tells why so few imperiled Iraqi and Syrian Christians and other non- Muslim minorities have been admitted by our State Department for asylum as humanitarian refugees. They are largely ‘urban refugees’ as Kassab pointed out in our Iraqi Christian interview. They don’t qualify under UN rules that our State Department slavishly adheres to. One of our first NER articles in January 2008 drew attention to that problem, “Why Is the UN Determining Who Becomes Humanitarian Refugees in the US?

Note this exchange with Kassab in our interview about the quandary facing Iraqi Christian ‘urban refugees’ in the Kurdish Regional Government:

Gordon:  What are the current conditions of Iraqi Christian refugee camps in the Kurdish Region and what kinds of assistance are they receiving?

Kassab:  The current conditions for Iraqi Christian IDPs are very chaotic and horrific. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is doing its best to provide for them. However, they are unable to absorb more than 3 million refugees from Syria and Yazidis in their region. The Iraqi government has done nothing for its citizen IDPs. Corruption is very high among the Iraqi government officials and that by itself makes distribution of relief to its IDPs very poor. The UN and humanitarian local and international NGOs are unable to function properly due to lack of coordination and efficient capacity. Therefore people are losing hope and are availing of any opportunity to escape abroad. Christians are urban refugees-IDPs meaning that they do not live in UN refugee camps. Instead they seek shelter with relatives, in unfinished buildings, parks and churches. Overall, this support can be very short lived because volunteering always has a sunset.

Shea cites the paltry admissions of Syrian Christians and other minorities by the State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration:

Over the past five years of Syria’s civil war, the United States has admitted a grand total of 53 Syrian Christian refugees, a loneYazidi, and fewer than ten Druze, Bahá’ís, and Zoroastrians combined. That so few of the Syrian refugees coming here are non-Muslim minorities is due to American reliance on a United Nations refugee-resettlement program that disproportionately excludes them. Past absolute totals of Syrian refugees to the U.S. under this program were small, but as the Obama administration now ramps up refugee quotas by tens of thousands, it would be unconscionable to continue with a process that has consistently forsaken some of the most defenseless and egregiously persecuted of those fleeing Syria.

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.

Here is the explanation given by a State Department official concerned about religious minorities:

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.

Like Iraqi Christians who opt for church-run camps over better-serviced U.N. ones, Syrian minorities fear hostility from majority groups inside the latter. 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.

Shea noted the response by the current UN High Commissioner for Refugees at a recent Washington conference:

At a discussion of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on October 27, I directly questioned U.N. High Commissioner António Guterres, an otherwise ardent advocate of diversity, about the short shrift that his office has given all Syria’s non-Muslim minority communities. His rambling reply failed to reassure. He said that, while some individuals should be resettled, as a Catholic he felt that Christians should not leave, because they’re part of the “DNA of the Middle East”; moreover, he said, Lebanon’s former president asked him not to resettle the Christians. Was he revealing a policy of religious bias and unlawful geo-political calculations for U.N. refugee determinations? Or was his sentiment a smokescreen behind which he was trying to flick off an issue he regarded as insignificant?

Like Iraqi Christian advocate Kassab, a prominent Chaldean Bishop in the Western US, Sarho Jammo, is “imploring that Christians be included in the new allotments for humanitarian refugees from the Middle East issued by the Administration.

Shea concludes:

According to a recent UNHCR posting, 19,000 Syrians picked straight from “refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan” have received U.N. approval and are awaiting resettlement in the U.S.  In October, President Obama ordered their expedited admission. Without further action, however, only token numbers of non-Muslim minorities will be among those rescued. George Carey, former archbishop of Canterbury, called it right about the Christian refugees and his words equally apply to Syria’s other non-Muslim communities: They are being “left at the bottom of the heap.”

It is clear from both our NER interview with Kassab and Shea that without Congress amending the Refugee Act of 1980 the State Department is fostering the extinction of Middle East Christians by adhering to UNHCR allotment criteria. If they cannot be provided sanctuary and asylum in the US, under the current UNHCR definitions, then special waivers should be granted lifting those restrictions to utilize the special P2/P3 Family Reunification Visa program.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes

Michael Rubin, former Bush era Pentagon official who is currently a Resident Scholar at the Washington, DC –based American Enterprise Institute(AEI), has been engaged in intense media interviews since the launch of his new book, Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue RegimesDancing with the Devil covers Rubin’s research on fifty years of US and Western experience with rogue regimes and terrorist groups. The Encounter Books release on the publication of Rubin’s book noted:

The American response of first resort is to talk with such rogues, on the theory that, “It never hurts to talk to enemies.” Seldom is conventional wisdom so wrong. It is true that sanctions and military force come at high costs. However, case studies examining the history of American diplomacy with North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, the Taliban’s Afghanistan, and Pakistan demonstrate that problems with both strategies do not make engagement with rogue regimes a cost-free option. Rogue regimes have one thing in common—they pretend to be aggrieved in order to put Western diplomats on the defensive. Whether they are in Pyongyang, Tehran, or Islamabad, rogue leaders understand that the West rewards bluster with incentives. The State Department, the process of holding talks is often deemed more important than results.

We met Rubin in 2005 when he returned to Yale to discuss his experience as a former Pentagon official on Iran and Iraq who also served as a political advisor to  the Provisional Coalition Authority. He spoke  about the emergence of the nuclear Iran threat under the ‘reformist’ regime in Tehran led by Ayatollah Khatami. See Rubin’s background and blog at the AEI website, here and here.

Our interview with Rubin ranged across an array of prevailing issues. Among these are the Iranian nuclear and ICBM threat and Putin’s great game of one sided politics in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. He also addresses Pakistan’s tolerance of terrorism and the  lack of US support for the Kurds in both Iraq and Syria. He criticizes the folly of the Administration’s support of Turkey under Premier Erdogan and the folly of its lead in the Final Status negotiations with the Palestinians imperiling Israel’s security.

Here are some of his observations.

Dr. Michael Rubin

Back in 2000 to 2005 the EU’s pursuit of engagement with Iran under President Khatami enabled the Islamic Republic to devote 70 percent of its hard currency reserves to both ICBM and nuclear weapons development. Moreover Rubin’s research on that period revealed that Iran took the lead from North Korea in its negotiating posture with the West alternating bluster with soothing words about the dialogue of civilizations. That raises the question of whether the present P5+1 negotiations backed by the US Administration with another reformist, President Rouhani, might be what  baseball legend Yogi Berra  called “déjà vu all over again”? Rouhani was Iran’s nuclear negotiator under former President Khatami. On Putin’s great game strategy in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, in the midst of the crisis in the Ukraine, Rubin had the following observations.

The Administration’s current negotiations posture with the Russian President is the equivalent of ”Chamberlain negotiating with Machiavelli, and Machiavelli always wins.” Rubin believes that Putin is “playing a zero sum game” in both the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Based on recent speeches by an Iranian Revolutionary Guards leader, Iran believes itself the head of the Islamic world.

The Administration’s outreach to Islamist non-state actors like the Muslim Brotherhood he considers a catastrophe reflected in recent conversations with senior leaders in Kuwait and the UAE. Rubin believes that the Administration has made a mistake not supporting secular Kurdish regimes in the Iraqi regional government and the virtual autonomous Kurdish region in the Northeastern province of Hazaka in Syria.  He believes this stems from our support of Turkey under the Erdogan government. Rubin suggests that Turkey’s embattled Premier Erdogan may be creating another rogue regime in Ankara.

We will be publishing both an article based on our interview with Rubin and a review of Dancing with the Devil in the March edition of the New English Review.

Listen to senior editor Jerry Gordon’s interview with Michael Rubin, here.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.