By Joseph DeCaro, BosNewsLife International Correspondent
BAGHDAD, IRAQ (BosNewsLife)– The immigration status of thousands of ChristiansÂ fleeing persecution in Iraq remained uncertain Monday, November 28, due to new security measures in the United States following fresh terrorism concerns, aid workers said.
Since two Iraqis were detained in May for allegedly aiding terror group Al-Qaeda in Iraq , already “hundreds of Iraqis” were denied entry into America, explained Jenny Yang, advocacy director of Christian aid group World Relief.
“Enhanced background checks have plugged the refugee pipeline, preventing Iraqi Christians and others from obtaining clearance to come to the U.S.” as authorities seek to uncover potential terrorists among them, added Yang.
Nearly half of all Iraqi refugees were denied entry to the U.S. in many cases because of missing documentation as they “hurriedly fled their homes” without official paperwork, according to World Relief estimates.
“When we’ve raised these cases, we’ve not gotten any clear [answers]. Itâ€™s causing a lot of confusion,” explained Yang.
U.S. officials say however that they work as fast as possible at a time of pressure from the Congress to prevent new terrorist attacks on American soil.
In a far-reaching inquiry, authorities said earlier this year they were rescreening over 58,000 Iraqi refugees already living in the U.S. amid concerns that lapses in immigration security may have allowed former insurgents and potential terrorists to enter the country.
The investigation was given urgency after U.S. intelligence agencies warned that Al Qaeda leaders in Iraq and Yemen had tried to target the refugee stream, or exploit other immigration loopholes, in an attempt to infiltrate the country with operatives.
At a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing this year, Senator Joe Lieberman criticized the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for failing to check for fingerprints on all recovered bombs. Experts said that’s often difficult however.
Yet, “I don’t understand why they would be behind by five or six years,” Lieberman reportedly said. He added there was “no excuse” for the delay.
With pressure mounting on immigration authorities, especially Iraqi Chaldean Christians are now finding it more difficult to enter America, said Rafat Ita, a social worker in the U.S. Detroit area where 160,000 Chaldeans reside in the largest settlement outside of Iraq.
Many of them are “desperate” to be reunited with family members now stranded overseas, Ita added.
“These (Christian refugees) cannot go back to Iraq because they could be killed. Now they are stuck in neighboring countries where they cannot work, cannot go to school and cannot worship freely. The only hope they have is to come to America and now that hope is in ruins,” the social worker said.
“We’re not a violent group, we’re Christians who believe in peace.”
The U.S. isn’t the only nation where Middle East Christians experience difficulties.
Hundreds of Christians, including Iraqis, also face hurdles in Europe, including in Austria, after the end of a U.S. program for religious minorities.
Under the American program since 1989 some 440,000 Christians, many complaining about persecution and Jews from the former Soviet Union, received refugee status in the U.S. (With editing and additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).
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