Christian humanitarian groups and human rights advocates are speaking out against the massive reduction in the number of Syrian refugees the United States has taken in this year — only 11 compared to 790 over the same period in 2016.
"Wow. We are the wealthiest nation in all of human history. We are also a nation with access to information about the atrocities happening two people not unlike us in #Syria. How can it be that we have taken in only 11 Syrian refugees this year?" Carmen Fowler LaBerge, a writer, speaker and Christian talk radio host, posed on Twitter.
LaBerge linked to a Fox News table displaying State Department statistics, which reveal that in total, 15,479 refugees came to America in 2016.
That number decreased drastically in 2017, Trump's first year as president, to only 3,024 people, and now in mid-April it stands at only 11 admitted Syrian refugees.
Bill O'Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy for Catholic Relief Services, told Catholic News Service that the figures are "extremely concerning."
"Millions of Syrians remain displaced, caught in a web of violence and proxy wars," O'Keefe said.
"The United States has traditionally taken the most vulnerable refugees, including Syrians, who have suffered terrible trauma or would be unable to go home. These refugees are the neighbors Jesus told us to love in the Gospel. We can safely welcome thousands of these women, men, and children to our country."
Edward Clancy, director of outreach for Aid to the Church in Need, USA, said that Christian refugees have also faced a difficult time with U.S. immigration policies.
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"The number of Christian refugees has been very low compared to their representation in the population, so we're speaking out on behalf of Christians with no voice in the Middle East ... we've made it part of our mandate to support the Christian community in the Middle East in these areas of refugees, food shelter, pastoral care, whatever is needed," Clancy explained.
Evangelical refugee aid group World Relief warned that Trump's actions on reducing the number of refugees coming to America have been responsible for "a wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies."
Emily Gray, SVP of U.S. Ministries for World Relief, wrote in a blog post on Friday:
"Like many of you, I have prayed intensely in this last year for God to use His power in changing our circumstances, and I continue in those prayers."
She added that despite all the negative developments when it comes to aiding refugees, World Relief has been able to assist 31,900 direct beneficiaries, along with another 48,900 beneficiaries, who include family members and congregants.
Bill Canny, executive director for Migration and Refugee Services for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that the annual U.S. cap for refugees under Trump, namely 45,000 people, is way too small to address the massive refugee crisis that is stemming not only from Syria's civil war, but a number of other major conflicts where people need help.
"While we respect safety concerns and we know it's the government's right to keep us safe, we don't think the refugee program is an avenue of danger to our citizens, due to the extensive security checks that have been done for a number of years," Canny said.
"Certainly it's a core responsibility of our faith, from exhortations in the Old Testament to welcome the stranger, to make sure that one cares for newcomers, and of course from the New Testament and the teachings of Christ."
Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on Fox News on Sunday to try and explain why the U.S. has only accepted 11 Syria refugees so far this year.
Haley said that she has personally spoken with some of the refugees in Jordan and Turkey, who told her they want to go home, rather than be resettled in America.
"From a humanitarian standpoint, the United States has been a massive donor to this situation, but also when I talked to the refugees, what I talked to them about, they want to go home. And there is a mountain that they look over and know it is on the other side and [they] know that Syria is in shambles and they are prepared to rebuild it," Haley claimed.
"But not one of the many that I talked to ever said 'we want to go to America.' They want to stay as close to Syria as they can so that when, God willing, this fighting stops, and when there is finally stability and peace in that area, they want to go rejoin their family members. They [want to] go back to what they remember," she added.