Of the 27,514 refugees admitted to the U.S. in 2019 under the U.S. Refugee Admission Program1, 21,544 (78.3%) were Christians fleeing persecution. Most of these came from Central Africa, where marauding gangs of Islamic extremists have been murdering whole villages of Christians. 2,720 of the 2019 admissions were Catholics, which is likely part of the reason for the Catholic Church’s strong reaction to Governor Abbott’s moratorium on Texas accepting any refugees this year. Over 2,000 were from denominations that consider themselves evangelicals.
Since 2002 (the earliest date I could find sortable data), 48% of the refugees have been Christians. The second largest group were Muslims at 32%.
The Trump administration has made dramatic revisions to refugee admissions. In the first three years of this administration, annual admissions have averaged just under 28,000, compared to an average for 2002-2019 of 54,000 and 71,000 during during the Obama administration. The Trump administration has informed Congress that it only intends to allow 18,000 refugees to resettle in the U.S. under this program in 2020. During the Obama administration, 43% of those admitted were Christian and 33% were Muslim. Hindus and Buddhists were about 7-8% each.
I do not agree with the Trump administration’s dramatic cutback on total admissions nor do I believe that any faith tradition should be given a preference, even my own. But the changes that have been made by the Trump administration make Governor Abbott’s decision to put a moratorium on refugees resettling in Texas even harder to understand. Many “conservatives” want fewer admissions and have felt the plight of Christians being persecuted around the world have been ignored. Trump has done precisely what they wanted with this program. So, why pull the plug now?
1 To reiterate from last week, the U.S. Refugee Admission Program represents a very small of part (approximately 5%) of total legal immigration into the United States. In addition to the regular visa process, foreign nationals are admitted under the asylum program and a special visa program that covers circumstances like foreign nationals that cooperated with the U.S. military. Governor Abbott’s moratorium only affects the U.S. Refugee Admission Program.