By The Hill
June 15, 2017
In 1939, the Cuban government, and then the U.S. government refused
entry to hundreds of Jewish refugees fleeing Germany. They were forced
to return to Europe, and many perished in the Holocaust.
of the S.S. St. Louis – popularly known as the “voyage of the damned” –
remains one of the darkest episodes of the Roosevelt administration.
And it should serve as a cautionary tale for the Trump administration
It has been eight decades since the United States returned
refugees facing genocide to countries where they might perish in it.
Now, we are about do so again.
As many as 300 Iraqi Christians are slated for deportation to Iraq, some
as early as this week. They would return to a country where they face
Though the circumstances differ somewhat from those
in 1939, what our country stands on the cusp of doing is, in many ways,
even worse. In 1939, we refused entry to people fleeing Hitler. We did
not forcibly return them to Germany. Upon their return to Europe, the
passengers went to many countries such as Belgium, France and Britain.
Of course, two of those countries subsequently fell to the Nazis, who
continued persecuting – and in many cases killing – those who had fled
in 1939 and could have had been saved had the United States admitted
History has never forgiven us.
In this case, the
government has stated that it plans to deport individuals who live in
the United States and are members of a tiny religious group facing
genocide in their home country.
That Christians face genocide in
Iraq at the hands of ISIS has been well documented. Both houses of
Congress unanimously declared this last year. So did the secretary of
state on March 17, 2016. And so have both the president and the vice
president when speaking at prayer breakfasts this year.
knows who gave this specific order. Whether it is the “deep state” at
work, or a political order, however, the effect remains the same. The
American government, for the first time ever, is about to deport to a
country undergoing an active genocide the very people targeted in that
When many of those being threatened with deportation
came to America, Iraq had a strong Christian population of 1.5 million.
Today, only 200.000 remain, and many of them are living as refugees. We
are not returning these Christians to the country they knew, we are
returning them to a post-apocalyptic situation in which Christian towns,
villages and neighborhoods have been totally destroyed by ISIS.
one, Christian or otherwise, should be forced to return to a country
with an ongoing genocide that targets them specifically. And yes, ISIS
is still in Iraq, and yes, it is still killing religious minorities. In
fact, it executed almost twenty women from a religious minority just
And ISIS has not been shy about targeting Christians.
It has recently referred to us as its “favorite prey,” and urged the
destruction of Christianity on the cover of its magazine less than a
The Trump administration should find a solution that
does not include returning people to a country with an ongoing genocide
targeting them. It should do this not because the Iraqi Christian
community supported the president and was the margin of victory in
Michigan. It should do this because it is the right thing to do.
months ago, I was one of the few voices that spoke out publicly in
support of President Trump’s executive order on immigration. I
understand, as I wrote then, how important it is to keep Americans safe.
grown up in Iraq, and having come here as a refugee myself, the impulse
to protect this country from the kind of violence so prevalent in the
land of my birth has long struck a chord with me. It still does.
also strikes a chord with many in the Iraqi Christian community. Our
community knows what happens when terrorists overrun a country. We know
what happens when they hate us for our faith and try to exterminate us.
Many of us came here to avoid just that.
It is precisely for this
reason that I believe the administration must stop the deportation back
to Iraq of Christians now living in the United States. We have a duty to
keep those in this country safe from terrorism. We have an even greater
duty when we know they are the specific targets of that terrorism.
world needs American leadership in promoting human rights and
combatting terrorism. This deportation would violate every principle of
protecting the victims of the genocide, the “crime of crimes.” It would
also be a win for ISIS, as we send their “favorite prey” back to them.
* Most Rev. Bawai Soro is a bishop of San Diego's Chaldean Catholic Diocese of St. Peter.