Christian aid groups responsible for resettlement mourned and criticised the impending decision to stop accepting any refugees into the United States for the next four months. A circulating draft of the order puts an indefinite ban on refugees coming from Syria and a month-long pause on anyone entering America from a handful of Muslim-majority nations.
“Our concern is that this action really does further traumatize a group of people that have already borne so much tragedy,” said Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, one of nine agencies that partner with the federal government to resettle refugees. “The human toll is really crushing.”
World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), took on about 11,000 cases last year - a record high since 1999, and had almost 1,200 churches volunteer to help.
The United States had been on track to meet the Obama administration’s goal of resettling 110,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017 - the highest goal since 1995, the Pew Research Center reported.
Trump’s administration is expected to halve that goal to 50,000.
The circulating draft of the executive order, part of Trump’s campaign promise to crackdown on immigration, indicates that seven Muslim-majority countries will be targeted: Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen.
Syria, where ISIS violence has displaced more than a million residents, was the No. 2 country of origin among the nearly 85,000 refugees the United States admitted last year. Syrians comprised 15 percent of refugees in the 2016 fiscal year, according to Pew. Iraq (12 per cent), Somalia (11 per cent), and Iran (4 per cent) also made the top 10 list.
The Trump administration cites security concerns for the policy changes. A draft of the order published by The New York Times reads: “In order to protect Americans, we must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward our country and its founding principles.”
Advocates for refugees point out that the massive and chaotic flow of refugees into Europe doesn’t compare to the smaller and more rigorous process in the United States, where government agencies vet candidates before approval.
“Most refugees from the Middle East are women and children who have suffered the assaults of ISIS terrorists and civil war,” said NAE president Leith Anderson, in a statement opposing Trump’s impending order.
“We have the opportunity to rescue, help, and bless some of the world’s most oppressed and vulnerable families.”
Based on World Relief’s 40 years of experience with resettling refugees, Arbeiter encouraged American Christians to not let self-protection prevent them from assisting the vulnerable.
“The question for the American Christian is: Will we speak out on behalf of those who are running from the very terror that we are rightly trying to put an end to?” he asked. “People who are running from Mosul and Aleppo and a thousand other places on fire?
“Would we be willing to accept giving up a 1 in 3 billion chance of our safety in order to make room for them?” he said.
“Or would we say, ‘I am not willing to give up even the smallest fraction of my safety to welcome people who have been vetted very carefully, who have been proven as a remarkable population of people. Will I not make room for them?
- Christianity Today