Did America Discriminate Against Christian Refugees Under Obama?

Did America Discriminate Against Christian Refugees Under Obama? February 3, 2017
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

I have no first-hand knowledge of this. However, I have read repeatedly in publications which seek to support Christians who are subjected to discrimination, that President Obama’s administration discriminated against Christians who were seeking asylum in this country.

President Trump evidently repeated that charge in front of an Evangelical group. The BBC then shot back by saying that President Trump was wrong when he said that the Obama administration favored Muslim immigrants over Christians who were seeking asylum in this country.

Now, Barnabas Aid has issued repeated demands that the BBC retract this statement, which they say is inaccurate.

I have often cited Barnabas Aid in stories about Christian persecution. I have also read the same charges about discrimination against Christian refugees under President Obama from other sources. I always believed them, and, to be honest, I believe them now.

I think President Trump is suffering from what happens when someone lies over and over. People just stop believing them, and when they say something, even if it’s true, it carries no weight with those who view them as compulsive liars. This is sad and a bit scary, considering that what President Trump says on the world stage affects our nation’s future and overall credibility.

If people all over the globe tend to dismiss whatever he says as a lie, then that means that they also dismiss American positions and policy statements as lies. That weakens our position worldwide. It can destroy our credibility as a nation.

In this instance of “who you gonna believe,” there will probably be knee-jerk reactions based entirely on which side of the Trump question the reader happens to fall. Trump rejecters will believe the BBC. Trump followers will believe President Trump.

That’s what’s happening on many questions of public policy these days. Very little rational thought is going into what people decide to believe, and even less rational thought is going into who they decide to follow. This is a dangerous thing in a democracy. I, for one, am doing all I can to encourage people to pull back from it and think for themselves.

In this instance, I am, personally, more inclined to believe Barnabas Aid than the BBC. I have, as I said, no personal knowledge of how things have worked for refugees coming into this country in the last year or so. But over the years, I’ve talked to quite a number of Christians who have suffered persecution, including losing family members to Christian persecution, around the globe. In each instance, our government had, at best, ignored the situation which allowed such persecution to exist.

I hope that you will start looking at each of these “who you gonna believes?” on a case-by-case basis, and stop knee-jerking. Neither side of this tells the truth all the time. Both sides lie. Our president appears to be a compulsive liar. But sometimes, he says something that is true.

Try to form your followership and support based on more than one source, including sources that disagree with your viewpoint. Our country is worth a lot more than any passing political position or political party. We are the American people. We truly can make a difference.

From Barnabas Aid:

Barnabas Aid has challenged the BBC to correct a wholly false claim made last Sunday on prime time TV news about Christian refugees in the USA. In an interview with a Christian TV network President Trump defended the executive order he issued on 27 January by saying that the policy was about prioritising religious minorities. When specifically asked if persecuted Christians would be a priority he replied:

“Yes, they have been horribly treated. Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very, very tough to get into the United States. If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian it was almost impossible.”

BBC office
BBC office
CC BY-SA 2.0 by Christine Matthews

On Sunday evening at the start of the 10pm television news, the BBC broadcast the following comment on this by their New York correspondent, Nick Bryant:

“In an interview with an evangelical television network [President Trump] claimed without any factual basis the old Obama policy favoured Muslims over Christians” (emphasis added).

A few minutes later the BBC also posted online a video of the actual statement they had claimed was “without any factual basis”. This sweeping assertion broadcast by the BBC was not only wholly untrue, it was also potentially damaging to tens of thousands of Syrian Christian refugees.

Barnabas Aid has for many months been highlighting the massive institutional discrimination faced by Syrian Christian refugees – with only one half of one percent of Syrian refugees resettled in the USA last year being Christians. This is despite them constituting up to 10% of the pre-war population and US Secretary of State John Kerry declaring in March that they were facing genocide.

It is not just Barnabas Aid that has been saying this. For nearly a year major US news networks such as Fox News and CNS have also reported it. The simple fact is that of 10,801 Syrian refugees admitted to the USA last year only 56 were Christians (there were also only 20 Shi’a and 17 Yazidis – the other two groups that John Kerry said were facing genocide), while 99% were Sunni Muslims. A 30 second google search by the BBC would have revealed this.

There have been claims that the previous administration could not have been discriminating against Christians as the total numbers of Christian (44%) and Muslim refugees (46%) admitted to the USA were similar. However, this is a misuse of statistics because these totals primarily reflect which countries have crises causing refugee movements. It is therefore almost impossible, using that kind of raw data, to say anything meaningful about whether Christians/Muslims are being discriminated against. However, where Christians are BOTH being specifically targeted as they are in Syria AND very significantly underrepresented in the number given entry to the USA then it is almost certain that they are facing significant discrimination.  It can be taken for granted that Syrian Christians are not averse to resettling in the USA, which is a number one goal for so many refugees and already has a large Arab Christian population which would make the newcomers feel at home.

Whatever one thinks of President Trump, it was wholly wrong for the BBC to make the sweeping claim that suggesting the previous administration’s policy disadvantaged Christians was “without any factual basis”.

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17 responses to “Did America Discriminate Against Christian Refugees Under Obama?”

  1. I live in this country. I know the BBC. Where lying is concerned, they make Trump look like an amateur, and their prejudice against Christians, and especially Evangelicals and Catholics, has to be seen to be believed. The BBC’s prestige is undeserved. But that also means that they will never withdraw or apologize, and they will always misrepresent everything to do with Christianity.

  2. You make a plea to form opinions on a case-by-case basis. Then you give an opinion that is…well…rather knee jerk in nature.

  3. I sincerely doubt there was ever an explicit directive issued by the Obama administration to discriminate against Christian refugees seeking asylum. Such an order would leave a paper trail which would’ve been leaked long before now and/or exposed by the new administration at the first opportunity to bolster their narrative.

    But that doesn’t necessarily invalidate the claim that the policies being enacted were highly and disproportionately unfavorable towards Christians. Something as simple as having one or more steps of the selection, vetting and screening process being done at a local level where they are a persecuted minority, or giving a lower priority to situations where there is little to gain from a political and/or economical standpoint, could result in Christians being adversely affected without the administration going out of its way to do so.

    It may not appear to be case, especially when it comes to issues we are invested in, but I truly think more harm is done in the world by simple indifference than by deliberate malice.

  4. Isn’t it possible that the Christian refugees are getting snapped up by other countries which *do* have preferential policies? The mere fact that most of the refugees we’ve accepted have been Muslim doesn’t prove that we are discriminating; that requires a few leaps and assumptions.

  5. Wait, we still have credibility as a nation? The nation that supposedly woke up in 2001 and was going to bring an end to Islamic Terrorism, but three months later went back to sleep and because of it has been in a never-ending war for 17 years?

    I do not believe that we have any credibility left to lose.

  6. It’s even simpler than that- the Obama administration *ONLY* considered vetting people from refugee camps in Jordan, Kurdistan, and Turkey where Christians are often executed by vigilantes (and so stay away from such refugee camps).

  7. A couple of things. I have problems with the BBC’s coverage but first, while Syrian Christians made up approximately 5% of the Syrian population they have not necessarily made up 5% of the refugees. For various reasons, the majority of Syrian Christians put their support behind Assad – this support is not as strong now, a few years into the war, but it was a major reason many Syrian Christians remained Syria, expecting that they would be under the government’s protection. Second, the low percentage of Christians coming to the US in the overall Syrian refugee numbers may have much more to do with the UN refugee process than any policy of the US. The UNHCR handles the first stage of the refugee process and then refers refugees that it finds have a valid claim on to potential host countries, including the US. UNHCR offices are usually staffed by locals – meaning in Turkey, Jordan, etc where the vast majority of these refugees are fleeing – they are very likely to be staffed by Muslims who are either unsympathetic or actively hostile to non-Muslim refugee applicants (this is not to say that all Muslims behave in this way, of course, but it happens often enough that it is a well-recognized problem within the refugee/humanitarian aid world). This could very well mean that cases of non-Muslims or minority Muslim groups are, if not being declined outright, slow tracked while those of Sunni Muslims are fast-tracked and referred onto 3rd countries, including the US, leading to skewed numbers of immigrants. I work on related issues in DC and am pretty certain that there was no US policy to prioritize any one religious group over another – and think that the imbalance in numbers is more likely due to lower initial numbers of Syrian Christians fleeing, and then internal bias within the UNHCR systems. I do think this is something that needs to be addressed of course, but am not confident at all that the Trump EO, in its attempt to prioritize Christians, will do anything to address these root causes (and could in fact make things worse).

  8. Yes that too – although there could still be a perceived discrepancy even according to Pew’s numbers (5% Christian population but less than 1% Christians admitted as part of the larger refugee group). It comes down to intent – I think it would be difficult for the BBC to prove a negative, ie that the Obama Administration did not have a specific policy to admit more Muslims than Christians, but I think the onus is on the other side to prove that such a policy actually existed. Based on my own experiences I am highly doubtful – and as I mentioned above, I think the final numbers had a lot more to do with the UN processes themselves and demographics of who fled when. As I mentioned above, many Christian Syrians did not flee in the first stages of the conflict because they thought Assad would/could protect them. One thing I forgot to mention is that given that the whole refugee vetting process between the UNHCR and US agencies can take at least 3-5 years, refugees fleeing later would find themselves at the back of the queue. Given that the conflict is only about 5 1/2 to 6 years old, it would make sense that the initial waves of accepted refugees have been Muslim since they made up the larger numbers of those fleeing in the early years of the conflict. I still haven’t seen any figures from anyone as far as how many Syrian Christians are seeking asylum in proportion to the larger Syrian refugee population (just pre-conflict population backgrounds which wouldn’t necessarily correlate to the refugee population for many reasons) – so can’t say for sure.

  9. I don’t know if Obama did favor Muslims over Christians, but I would not be surprised. With Obama’s love affair with the Iranians and with the Islamic Brotherhood, I have and continue to suspect that Obama favored Muslims over Christians around the world.

  10. Exactly. Obama’s bias to Iran (repeatedly, not just the Iran nuclear deal) and with the Muslim Brotherhood – a clear radical group if there was ever any – and with the Palistinians shows a preference to Islam. He may not be a secret Muslim, but he sure acted like one throughout his presidency.

  11. I know this is off topic but its the closest I found within the recent articles.

    I wanted to share this video I came across regarding the situation in Syria. Its an interview with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

    Below the video description there is a link to a piece written by Rep, Gabbard herself.

    I find it interesting because among other things its one aspect of the conflict that’s being under-reported in the media. I’m guessing the same thing goes for the Democratic Party establishment as well; especially since its hard for them to spin this one and blame it on Trump.

    What’s your take on this?