The number of Christian refugees admitted to the U.S. has plummeted under Donald Trump, along with the rates of other persecuted religious minorities attempting to enter the country. The President repeatedly vowed to defend vulnerable international Christians while on the campaign trail, but his hard-line immigration policies appear to have impacted the group he hoped to protect.
A new report indicated there were nearly 11,000 fewer Christian refugees admitted to the U.S. in the past fiscal year than in 2017. Meanwhile, dozens of Iraqi Christians living in the U.S. have reportedly been detained, as Trump’s administration continues to ramp up deportations nationwide.
Religious and immigrant activist groups have condemned the White House’s ongoing immigration crackdown and reduction of refugees admitted to the U.S.
“Ironically, these policies, while clearly aimed at Muslim refugees, ensure that Christians and other religious minorities from many of the countries on Trump’s list of suspect travel ban nations are also kept out,” the Refugees Council USA said in a statement. “It suggests that the President has no real interest in religious persecution or the tenets of religious freedom.”
Overall, the number of Christian refugees admitted in 2018 plunged from 25,162 the year before to just 14,289, according to State Department data. However, the administration has continued its rhetoric towards defending Christian refugees, with Mike Pence saying the U.S. was ready to stand with those persecuted in the Middle East during a rally last year.
“The reality is, across the wider world, the Christian faith is under siege,” the vice president said. “And nowhere is this onslaught against our faith more evident than in the very ancient land where Christianity was born.”
The federal government scrapped Obama-era deportation guidelines last year in an effort to speed up the process and rate of undocumented immigrants being removed from the U.S., despite several clashes in the courts.
In 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union won an emergency injunction for hundreds of Iraqis — many of whom were Christian and had been living in the country for years — who were subject to a scheduled mass deportation. Those Iraqis were then provided the opportunity to have their separate cases heard by a judge, which would not have happened without the court’s injunction. The administration was also forced to remove language about prioritizing religious minorities from an executive order restricting travel from several Muslim-majority nations.
Still, the White House has defended its immigration policies, with an administration spokesperson telling NBC News, “The administration has made helping persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East a top priority.”
The White House did not respond to requests for comment.