NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is again talking immigration, but this time his comments are going largely unreported – perhaps because the focus of the discussion isn't illegal immigration on the U.S.-Mexico border.
"If you're from Syria and you're a Christian, you cannot come into this country, and they're the ones that are being persecuted," Trump said in the video. "If you're Islamic and you come in, hard to believe, you can come in so easily. In fact, it's one of our main groups of people that are coming in."
Trump, who claimed in the speech he was Presbyterian, said the federal government should not discriminate between Muslims or Christians, but claimed "we have to do something about it."
"You know a lot of people don't know I'm Protestant. Nobody believes me. I'm Presbyterian, can you believe this? Presbyterian. We have to protect our people. They're being beheaded. And they can't come in. But other people that aren't being persecuted, certainly not to the same extent, they can come in, from the same country."
Trump said he had read about the plight of Christian refugees days before, but did not reference a specific news source. However, he may have been talking about the detention of a group of Chaldean Christians from Syria and Iraq who have been held in the Otay Detention Center in San Diego for the past four months.
The group fled the Middle East after militants from the Islamic State terror group took over eastern Syria and western and northern Iraq earlier this year. Despite having family in the United States to serve as their sponsors they are still being detained.
Another possible origin for the claim is the recent case of Sister Diana Momeka of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena. Momeka is an Iraqi nun who was supposed to travel to the U.S. to meet with congressional officials to testify on the plight of Iraqi and Assyrian refugees. The entire party, all Muslim, were granted visas for the visit. Hers was denied because immigration officials assumed she might claim asylum in the U.S. while here.
This is not the first time Trump has weighed in on the plight of Christian refugees from the Middle East. In May at the Iowa National Security Action Summit, Trump – not yet an official candidate for president – said President Obama's immigration policy was a "total lie."
"One of the lies, I think, is the fact that Muslims can come into this country, but Christians can't," Trump said. "Christians can't come into this country but Muslims can? What is that all about?"
"Something's got to be coming down from the top. When I heard that I couldn't believe it. And this is one of the top people in the world having to do with immigration in this country," he said in May, though he did not identify who the high-level source was.
Earlier, also before announcing his candidacy, Trump said if he was elected president he would represent Christians worldwide.
"Believe me, if I run and I win, I will be the greatest representative of the Christians they've had in a long time," Trump told CBN's David Brody.
While the federal government does not keep official records on the religion of immigrants in general, it does know the specific religion of those who have filed applications for asylum. Most of those are, in fact, Muslim, but whether that is the result of a policy decision of the sheer volume of Muslim applicants versus Christian applicants is unclear.
In 2013, the Pew Religion Forum published a survey illustrating the religious background of immigrants to the U.S.
That survey noted, "While Christians continued to make up the majority of legal immigrants to the U.S., the estimated share of new legal permanent residents who are Christian declined from 68% in 1992 to 61% in 2012. Over the same period, the estimated share of green card recipients who belong to religious minorities rose from approximately one-in-five (19%) to one-in-four (25%). This includes growing shares of Muslims (5% in 1992, 10% in 2012)."
In December 2014, the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees said in Geneva that the U.S. along with other European nations had agreed to accept 100,000 Syrian refugees into their countries. According to figures from the U.S. State Department, only 900 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the U.S. since 2013.
In February Jan Psaki, then a State Department spokeswoman, claimed the final number of Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S. through 2015 would be 1,000-2,000, a figure later confirmed by Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard.