In a campaign address, Donald Trump told his supporters that “if you are Syrian and you’re Christian, it’s almost impossible to come into the United States… it’s all going to change.” After his inauguration, he reiterated the promise. “They’re chopping off the heads of everyone, but more so, the Christians,” he told CBN News. “I thought it was very, very unfair, so we’re going to help them.”
But he hasn’t. Refugee resettlement has changed, but not for the better. While his administration has reduced Muslim refugee arrivals 93 percent compared to the final months of the Obama administration, it has still slashed Christian refugees 64 percent. He has also cut Syrian Christian refugee arrivals by 94 percent and those from Iraq by 99 percent. He has admitted just 20 Syrian Christians in all of Fiscal Year 2018.
Figure 1 shows the monthly average refugee arrivals by fiscal year—which starts on October 1 and ends on Sept. 30—as far back as there are statistics available for religion. During the months of FY 2017 when President Obama was still in office, Christian refugee admissions averaged 3,586 per month. Christian admissions fell to 1,411 per month during the rest of the fiscal year before plummeting to 1,334. Figure 1 also shows that, while the Obama administration oversaw a rise in Muslim refugees, it didn’t reduce Christian refugees as a result.
The rate of Christian refugee admissions has been 50 percent lower under President Trump’s first two years than under President Obama’s entire term, and it is 25 percent the monthly rate under President Bush. President Trump’s rate of admissions for Muslims was 72 percent lower than Obama and 47 percent lower than Bush. His rate of admitting people of other faiths was 78 percent and 64 percent lower than Obama and Bush, respectively.
On Syrian Christians specifically, President Trump has permitted the entry of just 2 per month in 2018—which is a reduction of 94 percent compared to the last few months of Obama’s term. Among Christian refugees from Iraq—who also face persecution from ISIS—the numbers have fallen 99 percent.
The unfortunate part of this story is that Trump was right: the Obama administration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees did let down Syrian Christians as ISIS committed genocide against them. But President Trump has not corrected this mistake—he’s made matters worse.
Some analysts give partial credit to Christians of Middle Eastern ancestry for President Trump’s surprise 2016 upset in Michigan because they voted for him based on his promise to save Christian refugees. Yet not only has his administration cut Christian refugee resettlement, it has attempted to deport hundreds of Iraqi Christians living in the United States without legal status for many years. A federal district court even accused the Trump administration of impeding the Christians’ attempts to challenge their removals in courts and declared that they are “confronting a grisly fate… if deported to Iraq.”
The Trump administration is hostile to Christian refugees for the same reason that it opposes other legal immigrants to the United States: they could take jobs from Americans, commit crimes, and use welfare in the United States. Never mind that they commit crimes at lower rates than Americans, that even the Trump administration has found that refugees are fiscally positive for the United States, and that employed refugees create better paying jobs for existing workers.
By cutting the refugee program across the board, the Trump administration has not just violated a campaign promise to resettle more Christian refugees—it has condemned many more to desperate poverty, persecution, or death. President Trump may not even be aware that his administration has failed to uphold his wishes. If he isn’t, perhaps he can force his bureaucrats to correct course if it comes to his attention. If he is aware, then Christian refugees have another long wait before they can hope for an escape to the land of the free and the home of the brave.