WASHINGTON — Christian groups that work with refugees are strongly opposed to a proposal that would in effect put Iraqi and Syrian Christians ahead of Muslims for resettlement in the U.S., even if they are also victims of persecution.
Ten House Republicans have signed on to a bill introduced this month by House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) that, among other things, instructs the government to prioritize religious minorities from Syria and Iraq for refugee status. The Obama administration plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in the 2016 fiscal year, which begins on Thursday.
As western countries determine how many people to take in from the Middle East amid an ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, the religious provision in McCaul’s proposal points to a key point of tension: the fact that most Syrians are Muslim.
This has been specifically highlighted by some leaders, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who said admitting more refugees could take away Europe’s Christian identity.
U.S. politicians who oppose accepting more Syrian refugees have been less explicitly focused on religion, but contend that it would harm national security because some of those acceptedcould be potential terrorists. In announcing the legislation, the congressman did not mention any religion specifically, but instead focused on the “threat posed by inadequate security screening procedures for refugees seeking entry into the United States,” including members of the Islamic State.