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Oppressed Christian minorities also suffer under Trump

Sri Lanka attacks show how Trump’s immigration policies hurt Christian minorities.

Pakistani Christians hold candles to pay tribute to the Sri Lankan blasts victims during a vigil in Islamabad on April 22, 2019. - The death toll from bomb blasts that ripped through churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka rose dramatically April 22 to 290 -- including dozens of foreigners -- as police announced new arrests over the country's worst attacks for more than a decade. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI / AFP)        (Photo credit should read AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani Christians hold candles to pay tribute to the Sri Lankan blasts victims during a vigil in Islamabad on April 22, 2019. - The death toll from bomb blasts that ripped through churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka rose dramatically April 22 to 290 -- including dozens of foreigners -- as police announced new arrests over the country's worst attacks for more than a decade. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI / AFP) (Photo credit should read AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

While much of the world already had begun their Easter festivities, 290 people were killed after multiple churches and hotels were struck by targeted bombings across Sri Lanka Sunday. Sri Lankan officials have arrested 24 people believed to be connected to the attacks.

Vice President Mike Pence condemned the devastating act of violence, calling it an “attack on Christianity” in a Sunday tweet. Other administration officials responded in a similar capacity, with White House counselor Kellyanne Conway condemning former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for using “Easter worshippers” instead of “Christians” in their tweets of condolences for the victims.

“One of the reasons why I knew Hillary Clinton was going to lose […] is that she would never say ‘radical Islamic terrorism,'” Conway told Fox News Monday.

At a news conference at the State Department on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Conway’s remarks, fully blaming the attacks on “radical Islamic terror.”

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“What was supposed to be a joyful Easter Sunday was marred by a horrific wave of Islamic radical terror and bloodshed,” Pompeo said.

For as much sympathy as members of the Trump administration claim to have for the victims of Sunday’s devastating attacks, its own immigration policies have actively harmed members of Christian minority groups both overseas and at home.

Years of bloody civil war in Sri Lanka have caused thousands of to seek refuge in countries like Australia and India. As of March 2018, the UN Refugee Agency was helping 42,956 persons of concern in Sri Lanka, which included 822 refugees, 628 asylum-seekers, and 1,579 refugee returnees. Christians are a minority in Sri Lanka, making up approximately 7% of the nation’s 21 million population, and have historically been the targets of other religious factions in the country.

As the number of refugees has surged across the globe, the Trump administration slashed the United States refugee cap last September. The United States will admit a maximum of 30,000 refugees in fiscal year 2019, the lowest cap since the program began in 1980. When Trump entered the White House in early 2017, the refugee cap was at 110,000. He lowered it first to 50,000, then to 45,000, and now 30,000.

According to data from South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), there are roughly 120 Sri Lankans enrolled in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program which Trump has ended and is currently hanging by thread thanks to a court injunction. No new applications are being accepted for DACA at this time, so the number of people who could be helped by the program may be even higher.

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Between October 2014 and April 2018, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arrested at least 292 Sri Lankans. Like detained immigrants and asylum seekers from India and Nepal, Sri Lankan migrants have historically high rates of being granted bond, but they also have high bond rates, with the median reaching $20,000 in fiscal year 2019.

It’s not just Sri Lankans. Due to the administration’s refugee policies, Syrian Christian refugee admissions have dropped by 94% and those from Iraq by 99%. Just 20 Syrian Christians were admitted in all of fiscal year 2018. All told, the number of Christian refugees admitted to the U.S. dropped nearly 79% between fiscal years 2016 and 2018.

As a result of the president’s Muslim Ban, admissions under the Lautenberg-Specter law — a program that offers visas to religious minorities in the former Soviet Union and Iran — have plummeted and hundreds of Iranian Christians remain in limbo.

In the United States, a group of 1,000 Iraqi nationals, many of them Chaldean Christians, are on the verge of being deported after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), under the direction of the Trump administration, detained Iraqi nationals with criminal records for mostly minor crimes like marijuana possession or selling cigarettes without a license. After a federal appeals court ruled against the Iraqis two weeks ago in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the fate of these individuals is in legal limbo.

Last week a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter asking the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE to halt the mass deportation.

“Chaldean Christians face active persecution in Iraq, and they will likely be subject to discrimination, violence, and possibly torture or death if deported to Iraq,”  the lawmakers wrote.