Evangelicals are divided over President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily suspending the U.S. refugee program and his statement that Christian refugees will be given "priority status."
Some Christian leaders say that the act of putting one religion ahead of others sets a dangerous precedent--others worry that expediting refugee entry for Christians will only lead to more persecution.
Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, disagrees. He says Christian refugees do need to be prioritized now because they are in a more difficult position. As religious minorities, they don't feel safe in UN refugee camps, which means they don't have access to the refugee program.
"Right now they're not even getting the interview," to begin the vetting process, Smith said. "They're not in the UNHCR camps, the UN camps, they're unwelcome there. The women are raped and harassed, the men are discriminated against inside the camps. So they choose to go elsewhere, like Erbil, where they are safer but have no access to the process to get asylum."
Smith told CBN News that the previous administration neglected Christian refugees even though they face greater danger and are less of a security risk.
"These Christian communities can be vetted easier than some because they know each other, they're with their pastor, they're with their faith community, they moved en masse and now are living in Erbil, most of them, 70,000--and it seems to me that some and most of them still want to go back to their homelands. But if some want to come here, for the sake of their children, for example, they should at least get the interview and then begin the vetting process," Smith said.
Rep. Smith visited the region over the holidays, where he saw the suffering up close.
"Just last month I saw in Iraq the lack of humanitarian aid for Christian genocide survivors. These genocide survivors told me the United States and global community had abandoned them."