Fewer Persecuted Christians Allowed Into U.S. Under President Trump’s New Refugee Rules

A refugee girl from Burma settles into the United States. (Image: Sean Sheridan / World Relief)
A refugee girl from Burma settles into the United States. (Image: Sean Sheridan / World Relief)

Approximately 14,000 fewer Christian refugees will arrive in the United States this fiscal year, as President Donald Trump’s policies lead to the fewest resettlements in a decade.

Today, resettlement agencies hit Trump’s new ceiling of 50,000 refugees, three months before the end of the federal government’s fiscal year on September 30. And as CT predicted, persecuted Christians fell far short of last year’s intake.

“At this point, World Relief expects that the only additional arriving cases after today will be individuals who have a close family member already in the US,” Matthew Soerens, US director of church mobilization for the National Association of Evangelicals’ humanitarian arm, told CT. (“Close family” means a parent, parent-in-law, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son- or daughter-in-law, or sibling, according to State Department guidelines.)

A total of 22,637 Christians have been resettled in the US in fiscal 2017, compared to 36,822 in fiscal 2016, according to State Department data.

The total includes 1,795 Baptists, 358 Methodists, and 5 Lutherans, along with believers who simply identified as Christians (7,751), Protestants (2,034), or evangelicals (425).

In fiscal year 2016, the US welcomed 2,363 Baptists, 1,127 Methodists; and 31 Lutherans. About 15,630 refugees identified as Christians; 2,884 as Protestants; and 354 as evangelicals.

The numbers are down across the board: agencies resettled fewer Muslims (21,763 in FY2017, down from 38,533 in FY2016), Hindus (1,080, down from 1,967) and Buddhists (1,520, down from 3,108). There were 403 Jehovah’s Witnesses, down from 699 last year.

“Over the past decade, more of those admitted to the US have been Christians than those of any other faith background, so the dramatic reduction in refugee arrivals this year means far fewer persecuted Christians will have the opportunity to rebuild their lives in safety in the US,” stated World Relief president Scott Arbeiter.

World Relief, which partners with local churches in its work as one of America’s nine resettlement agencies, closed five offices and laid off 140 staff after Trump’s executive order lowered the number of refugees.

“We’re urging the administration to resume resettlement of carefully vetted refugees at levels similar to recent years once this moratorium is completed,” Arbeiter stated.

The refugees were front-loaded this year, since agencies were operating for the first three months on President Barack Obama’s previous target of 110,000 resettlements.

As a result, more than 30,000 were already admitted before Trump’s January 27 executive order lowering the limit and temporarily banning refugees and travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Just under 4,000 Christians had been accepted from those majority-Muslim countries in fiscal year 2016, compared with almost 31,000 Muslims.

In fiscal year 2017, 17,864 Muslim refugees from those countries were admitted to the United States, compared to 30,917 last fiscal year. The number of Christian refugees was also down, though the difference was less pronounced: 3,053 were admitted in fiscal year 2017, down from 3,993 admitted in 2016.

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Christianity Today