Due to reliance on the United Nations, the United States' Syrian refugee resettlement program unintentionally discriminates against Christians fleeing from the Islamic State, as Christians comprise less than three percent of the nearly 2,200 Syrian refugees resettled in the United States since the beginning of the Syrian conflict.
CNS News reports that State Department statistics compiled from the start of the Syrian civil war in the spring of 2011 until now, show that 96 percent of the approximately 2,184 Syrian refugees that have resettled inside the United States have been Muslim, with over 2,057 of the resettled refugees being Sunni Muslims.
While President Barack Obama has chastised Republican candidates for suggesting that the U.S. should focus more on granting asylum to Syrian Christian refugees, the U.S. has taken in only 53 Syrian Christians (four Catholic, five Orthodox and 44 other Christians) since the start of the civil war.
Although the CIA World Factbook states that Syria's population before the civil war consisted of 10 percent Christians and 90 percent Muslims, Christians make up just 2.4 percent of the U.S. Syrian refugee resettlement program in the U.S. Other Syrians who have resettled in the U.S. include one Yazidi, two Baha'i, six Zoroastrians, six of "other religion," seven of "no religion," eight Jehovah's Witnesses, and three atheists.
Most of the refugees that are considered for resettlement in the U.S. are those who are referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Although there are times when resettlement can occur without a UN referral, those are generally cases where the refugees have family sponsors already inside the United States.
As thousands of Syrian Christians and other religious minorities have been forced to flee their homes and villages because of the possibility of being killed by the Islamic State, CNS reports that many Christian refugees tend to avoid registering with the U.N. camps since they are targeted there also.
Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman from Arkansas, are calling for a new U.S. Syrian refugee resettlement policy, saying that the Obama administration's current resettlement policy "unintentionally discriminates" against Syrian Christians and other religious minorities who are hesitant to register with the United Nations.
The senators issued a statement on Monday calling on the the Obama administration to reevaluate the practice of relying on the United Nations for resettlement referrals.
"That reliance unintentionally discriminates against Syrian Christians and other religious minorities who are reluctant to register as refugees with the United Nations for fear of political and sectarian retribution," the statement reads.
As some Republican candidates have called for the Obama administration to not permit any more Syrian refugees into the U.S. following the Paris terrorist attacks last Friday, other candidates like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have called on the administration to only allow Syrian Christians into the United States.
"We should not be allowing Muslim refugees from countries where ISIS and al Qaeda have control of significant amounts of territory because of the inability of this administration, the inability of our intelligence sources to distinguish between who is and is not an ISIS terrorist," Cruz said in an interview with ABC News.
During a news conference at the APEC Summit in the Philippines, Obama criticized Republicans for insisting that U.S. should close its doors to Syrian refugees and Muslim refugees. He suggested that such rhetoric would only feed the Islamic State's narrative that the United States and the West are waging a war against Muslims.
"I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric coming out of here in the course of this debate," Obama said.
As the Obama administration plans to take in up to 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year, some Republican presidential candidates have argued that allowing Syrian refugees into the country would make its easier for terrorists to infiltrate the country through the resettlement process.
However, Stephen Bauman, president of the National Association of Evangelicals' humanitarian arm World Relief, told The Christian Post last week that the State Department's extensive 18-month vetting process has never allowed a terrorist into the country since the resettlement program began in the mid 70s.
"Of course we want to keep terrorists out of our country, but let's not punish the victims of ISIS for the sins of ISIS," NAE President Leith Anderson said in a Tuesday press release. "We are horrified and heartbroken by the terrorist atrocities in Paris, but must not forget that there are thousands more victims of these same terrorists who are fleeing Syria with their families and desperately need someplace to go."