Federal Judge Concerned About Small Number of Christians Among Syrian Refugees Admitted to U.S.
by PATRICK GOODENOUGH
November 7, 2016
The American people have been given no good explanation for the "perplexing discrepancy" between the tiny proportion of Christians among Syrian refugees resettled in the U.S. and the considerably larger proportion of Christians in the Syrian population, a federal appellate court judge has written.
In a concurring opinion in a case relating to immigration policy, Judge Daniel Manion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit expressed his "concern about the apparent lack of Syrian Christians as a part of immigrants from that country."
"It is well documented that refugees to the United States are not representative of that war-torn area of the world," Manion wrote. "Perhaps 10 percent of the population of Syria is Christian, and yet less than onehalf of one percent of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States this year are Christian."
"Recognizing the crisis in Syria, the President in 2015 set a goal of resettling 10,000 refugees in the United States [in FY 2016]," he continued. "And in August the government reached this laudable goal. And yet, of the nearly 11,000 refugees admitted by mid-September, only 56 were Christian."
"To date, there has not been a good explanation for this perplexing discrepancy."
(In fact, by mid-September there were already well over 11,000 Syrian refugee admissions since the start of the fiscal year - and fewer than 0.5 were Christians.)
Manion said that having good data available is critical to public debate about immigration policy.
State officials wanting to keep their citizens safe were expected to provide a high level of evidence to back their positions, he said - but were then prevented from obtaining the evidence.
He said one possible reason for the small number of Christians among the Syrian refugees is the worry that they may have troubling affiliations. For example, concern that a Christian applicant may be affiliated with a militia may lead to his being denied entry.
But because data isn't being made available, it is impossible to know whether such concerns lie behind the small number of Christians among the admitted Syrian refugees.
Manion was critical of Congress consciously limiting what government information is available to the public (through statutory exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act), and pointed out that it was empowered to amend sunshine or immigration laws.
"Until that time, however, many of us remain in the dark as a humanitarian catastrophe continues."
Manion's concurrence came in a recent appeal decision affirming a district court ruling in favor of the Department of Homeland Security. The DHS had been taken to court by a liberal activist group for refusing to make public so-called "tier III" terrorist groups - affiliation with which can bar a refugee applicant from admission to the U.S.
"Tier I" groups are U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaeda and Hezbollah; "tier II" groups are not FTOs, but are groups on the terrorist exclusion list, such as Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami or the Continuity Irish Republican Army.
"Tier III" groups, on the other hand, are deemed to qualify to be called terrorist organization based on their activities, but without having gone through a formal designation process. They are defined in law as "a group of two or more individuals, whether organized or not, which engages in, or has a subgroup which engages in" terror activity.
The Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center filed a FOIA lawsuit against the DHS, declaring that these "tier III" groups' identities should be made public.
"[M]any legitimate asylum seekers, refugees, and their families have been barred from protection in the United States even though they have never been involved in violence themselves and pose no threat to the security of the United States," the center argued back in 2011.
But Manion, along with judges Richard Posner and Joel Flaum, accepted the DHS's position that if asylum applicants became aware of the identities of the "tier III" groups, then they would "have a very strong incentive to falsify or misrepresent any and all encounters, activities, or associations that he or she may have had with that organization."
Such an applicant would likely deny having had any connection - or even having heard of such a group.
"And if his denials are believed he may - even if he is a past and prospective future terrorist - not only escape the government's net but also cost the government an opportunity to obtain information about the organization that might in the future help in identifying terrorists," the decision read.
Courtesy of CNSNews.com
Patrick covered government and politics in South Africa and the Middle East before joining CNSNews.com in 1999. Since then he has launched foreign bureaus for CNSNews.com in Jerusalem, London and the Pacific Rim. From October 2006 to July 2007, Patrick served as Managing Editor at the organization's world headquarters in Alexandria, Va. Now back in the Pacific Rim, as International Editor he reports on politics, international relations, security, terrorism, ethics and religion, and oversees reporting by CNSNews.com's roster of international stringers.