USCIRF Chair to Congress: Give Refugees Vulnerable to Genocide the Highest Priority

By Lauretta Brown | April 21, 2016 | 12:27pm EDT
Syrian refugees arriving on the island of Lesbos, Greece. (AP Photo)

( – Robert P. George, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), told a congressional commission on Tuesday that the United States should give the highest priority to refugees “who are vulnerable to genocide, enslavement, murder, torture.”

The U.S. government has declared that Christians and other religious minorities in Syria are being targeted for genocide by the Islamic State.

At a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing addressing the genocide against religious minorities by ISIS, George said that he recognizes that USCIRF’s recommendation to resettle 100,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. is “very controversial” but emphasized that “it’s important that it be done both substantively and so that the United States is doing its part along with other nations in the world.”

He also emphasized that “in taking these refugees, prioritization needs to be done on the basis of vulnerability.”

“The most vulnerable need to be given the highest priority, particularly those who are vulnerable to genocide, enslavement, murder, torture,” George said.

George added that sufficient resources need to be allocated to the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies that do security vetting for refugees considered for resettlement “to allow them to expeditiously process applications and thoroughly conduct the background checks in order to facilitate resettlement without compromising U.S. national security.”

“The public’s not going to support this if they believe our national security’s being put in jeopardy,” George emphasized. “It’s not that they’re cruel. It’s not that they lack compassion. They have legitimate concerns about security. We believe those concerns can be met, and we think we can make the process more expeditious if we make sure that the funding is there for the security checks to be done in a comprehensive and effective way.”

Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson also testified before the Commission on Tuesday, echoing some of George’s recommendations.

The Knights of Columbus gave a report documenting eyewitness accounts of the targeting of Christians at the hands of ISIS to the State Department just prior to Secretary of State John Kerry’s March finding that ISIS was committing genocide.

“Now the United States must act to stop this genocide, to prevent its recurrence, to assure the future of Christians and other genocide victims whether they wish to leave or to remain,” Anderson said.

“Genocide survivors who wish to come to the United States must not be put at the back of the line,” he emphasized.

Anderson testified that of the 1,366 Syrian refugees admitted to this country in FY 2016, “fewer than three percent came from the groups targeted for genocide.”

As reported on April 10, the 1,366 Syrian refugees who had been admitted to the U.S. in fiscal 2016 up to that point included 1,330 Sunni Muslims (97.3 percent of the total) and only 9 Christians (or 0.6 percent of the total).

“It is wrong when those who faced genocide are excluded – often on the basis of oversight or bureaucratic procedures,” he emphasized.

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