Senators to Kerry: Give Iraq, Syria Christians refugee status

A bipartisan group of senators demanded Secretary of State John Kerry do more to protect religious minorities in Syria and Iraq.

Sens. Roger WickerRoger WickerGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Senate Democrats aren't losing the money race after all To protect taxpayers, the Hyde Amendment must be permanent MORE (R-Miss.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownSanders warns Clinton: Don't rush to compromise with GOP Dem senator praises US steel after car crash Lobbying World MORE (D-Ohio) led a letter to Kerry on Tuesday asking him to allow Syrian and Iraqi Christians and Yazidis to find refuge in the United States.

“We have an obligation to stand up for human rights,” Brown said. “The U.S. has pledged humanitarian assistance for relief in Iraq and Syria, and that should include refugee assistance for persecuted religious minorities facing persecution.”

The senators said the State Department should also provide these minorities with better access to U.S. humanitarian aid.

“The oppression of Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq has led to an unspeakable humanitarian crisis,” Wicker said. “Tens of thousands have had to flee their homes to seek sanctuary from the Islamic State — whose savage treatment of these people is well-documented. The United States has historically protected minorities facing similar circumstances. We should do so again now.”

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has persecuted religious minorities, brutally killing them. The United States has launched airstrikes against the terrorist group.

In the letter, the lawmakers asked specifically for the creation of a Priority 2 group under the United States Refugee Admissions Program for religious minorities from Iraq and Syria. This categorization has been used in the past to protect religious minorities in the former Soviet Union, Cuba and Iran. It would allow the minority groups to come to the United States and seek asylum. 

Sens. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) also signed the letter.