In the wake of terror attacks in Brussels, Belgium on Tuesday, some Republican lawmakers have called for a ban on Syrian refugees and increased surveillance in American Muslim communities. But one Republican senator wants to make it easier for some refugees to come to the U.S. — if they’re Christian.
In an interview with radio host Kevin Miller on Tuesday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) spoke about his new bill to make it much easier for Christians and other religious minorities fleeing ISIS-related violence to resettle in the United States.
Cotton noted Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent declaration that ISIS is carrying out genocide against Arab Christians, Yazidis, Shia Muslims, and other religious minorities. Cotton — who has opposed past efforts by president Obama to accept Syrian refugees — said the United States has a “moral imperative” to save Christians and other religious minorities.
“I think the U.S. has a moral imperative to try and save these Christians and the other small minority groups,” he said. “So I would create a special kind of visa program that wouldn’t take any access away from anyone else in the United States, but would recognize that Christians — like Jews in the Soviet Union — are being singled out for persecution and elimination. That’s in our interest, as it is in combating the Islamic State.”
ISIS has been known for its brutal trail of violence across Iraq and Syria, committed against Christian and Muslims — anyone who does not conform to their hateful ideology. But, as president Obama pointed out in 2014, ISIS been “especially barbaric towards religious minorities” like Christians and the Yezidis, a small ancient religious sect that ISIS attempted to fully extinguish. At the same time, the majority of people killed by ISIS — and most people fighting ISIS on the ground — are Muslims. In addition, the vast majority of Syrian refugees to Europe are Sunni Muslims, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
While Cotton seems enthusiastic about accepting Christian and other non-Sunni Muslim refugees, he has opposed efforts by president Obama to accept other Syrian refugees fleeing from ISIS. Following the Paris and Beirut terror attacks in November, Cotton advocated for a temporary moratorium on Obama’s plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees, saying “the integrity of the security vetting process” needed to be verified.
Cotton also voted yes on a bill last year aiming to halt Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the United States. Deemed the SAFE Act, the bill would have required numerous federal agencies to unanimously agree and certify to Congress that each refugee does not pose a threat to the United States.
FBI Director James Comey publicly testified against the SAFE Act, calling it a “bad bill” that seeks to “micromanage the process in a way that is counter productive to national security, to our humanitarian obligation, and the overall ability to focus on Homeland Security.” He noted that the current refugee screening process lasts up to two years for each refugee and is one of the most rigorous in the world.