When Sims raised the issue to Stephen Miller, a key driver of the administration’s immigration and refugee policy, Miller reportedly responded that he “would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched American soil.”
A number of evangelical leaders had almost unprecedented access to the Trump administration through an informal evangelical advisory board, and Sims says he never saw any of them remind him of the plight of persecuted Christians.
Spokesman for the evangelical advisory board Johnnie Moore said there were meetings where refugees were discussed. “I have [been] in several of them and I was privy to others,” he told me, though he did not respond to questions for specifics on what kind of concerns faith leaders raised.
Moore, appointed by Trump last year to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said the administration’s focus was on deploying resources to Christians in places like Iraq and Syria rather than pushing for more to be admitted into the United States because “most refugees don’t want to immigrate unless they have to.”
The plummeting numbers have caused consternation in some Christian circles. In February 2018, a group of evangelical leaders signed a letter that ran as an ad in The Washington Post asking the administration to reconsider its policies. Last August, the Evangelical Immigration Table also sent a letter to Pompeo, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback asking them to keep the cap high for 2019. Christian leaders, including Franklin Graham, have also spoken out against the deportation of the Chaldean Christians.
World Relief is one of the nine private organizations that partner with the State Department to resettle refugees. Matthew Soerens, World Relief’s U.S. director of church mobilization, expressed concerns about changes from personnel to policy that have slowed down the admissions process.
“We are all for an extremely thorough vetting process. But I’m not convinced the process that’s been developed since 9/11 has failed us,” Soerens said. “Our DHS has a good record.”
Soerens is also skeptical of the argument that refugees want to stay in their homeland. “No one has ever forced people to come to the United States as a refugee,” he said. “I interact with some of their family members here—they want to come to the United States. They want to be safe and have the opportunity to worship Jesus. Would they prefer to go back to their country and have that religious freedom there? Of course. But few of them think that is happening tomorrow.”