On Friday Trump signed an executive order that bans Syrian refugees indefinitely and suspends the U.S. refugee program for 120 days, after which time the secretaries of State and Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence will be able to decide which countries to accept refugees from.
The order also says that the administration should “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.”
Trump said Syrian Christians seeking refugee status in the U.S. have been treated unfairly in contrast to Syrian Muslims in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody on Friday.
“The refugee program, or the refugee changes you’re looking to make. As it relates to persecuted Christians, do you see them as kind of a priority here?” Brody asked.
“Yes,” Trump replied.
“They’ve been horribly treated,” the president continued. “Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible and the reason that was so unfair, everybody was persecuted in all fairness, but they were chopping off the heads of everybody but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them.”
While the administration of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama significantly increased the number of Syrian refugees allowed into the country, an overwhelming majority of these were Muslim, despite the Islamic State’s systematic attempts to convert or kill both Syria and Iraq’s Christian population.
According to a Pew Research Center report 99% of the nearly 12,600 Syrians granted refugee status last year were Muslims. Less than 1% were Christian. The United States admitted a record number of 38,901 Muslim refugees in 2016, according to a study conducted by Pew.