The United States has long been considered a safe haven for refugees. But that does not mean that seekers of asylum are allowed to flood into the country without permission or without following very well-defined procedures. Regardless of which side of the debate readers may espouse, at a minimum, these facts should be considered.
- In the first five years of the current century, about eight million people immigrated to the United States. Almost half entered the country illegally.
- The U.S. has admitted more refugees than any other country since the end of World War II.
- In 2006, the United States led the world in acceptance of legal immigrants. In fact, the U.S. accepted more than twice as many immigrants than the rest of the Top 10 nations combined.
Nonetheless, we don’t always get it right. For instance, more than 100 Iranian Christians have been stranded in Austria since January 2016 because of changes in the U.S. immigration law that prevent foreign nationals from several specific countries from entering the U.S.
There has been a system in place for years in which refugees from Iran can travel to Vienna, Austria, whilst waiting for their immigration petitions to finish processing. The process typically takes about two to three months.
Now, well past the usual stay for asylum seekers in this process, these Christians have been in Austria past the legal limits. That makes them subject to deportation to their home country under Austrian immigration law. Deportation to Iram would almost assuredly be a death sentence.
In effect, the immigration restrictions imposed under the seven-country travel ban endangered “Christians who live in the most repressive countries for religious minorities (making them) the least able to find refuge in the U.S.”
Now the good news
The Washington Free Beacon is reporting that “The Department of Homeland Security has re-opened the asylum applications of a group of 87 Iranian Christians and other religious minorities who have been marooned in Austria . . . awaiting a final decision.”
Nina Shea, the head of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, observed that “Abandoning these Iranian minorities and leaving them to their fate back in Iran after they left that country to resettle in the ‘Great Satan’ would be heartless and unfair. It would also discredit the State Department’s strong—and warranted—condemnations of religious persecution by Tehran and render them mere propaganda.”
Informed observers believe that their petitions for asylum will be granted. Fellow Christians need to be praying for the safety and soon admission of these refugees.
- Washington Free Beacon, DHS Reversal Reopens Asylum Cases for 87 Iranian Christians and Other Religious Minorities
- Christianity Today, US Puts Scores of Iranian Christians at Risk of Persecution
- Christianity Today, Iranian Christian Refugees Are Still Stranded in Austria. But Are Things About to Change?