WASHINGTON, D.C.—Able-bodied young Muslim men of military age, who are fleeing their home country in search of refuge in the West, should stay behind and fight radical Islam, suggested Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) during a House panel hearing on the ongoing refugee crisis fueled by the civil war in Syria.
During the hearing held by the House Foreign Affairs Subcomittee on the Middle East and Africa, he suggested that instead of granting refugee status to able-bodied Muslim men, the U.S. should focus on helping Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities who are being persecuted in Syria by extremist groups like the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
Referring to the hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern migrants who are “walking” into Western Europe, the California Republican said they appear to be very strong and capable young Muslim men who are running away from conflict, instead of facing it.
The men who are fleeing their home country are “military-aged people who, if they are against radical Islam, they should be there fighting radical Islam,” he declared.
Some women in Syria have complained that their men of fighting age have abandoned them and their children.
In fiscal year 2015 alone (Oct. 1, 2014 thru Sept. 30, 2015), the United States admitted 70,000 refugees from 67 different nationalities for permanent resettlement, including 1,700 Syrians.
President Obama has directed America to increase that number to 85,000 in fiscal 2016, including at least 10,000 Syrians.
Lawmakers from both parties have accused the United States of being responsible for the refugee crisis in the Middle East.
During the hearing, Rohrabacher asked a U.S. State Department official, who was testifying, “Of the people that we are bringing in, are they going to be Muslim men like the ones going into Europe or is there some way that we are trying to see that we have a better definition of refugee — helpless people who are in need — rather than bringing more Muslim men into the United states?”
“Of the 1,700 [Syrian refugees] that we’ve brought [in], only 2 percent were young men… of course we bring men… we bring families that have had terrible things happen to them,” responded Anne Richard, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the State Department.
“I would question, I guess, some of the thinking behind your statement about the young able-bodied Muslim men walking to Europe,” she continued. “I think the reason that they are able walk to Europe is because they are able-bodied (laugh).”
The reason the Muslim men are going into Europe is because they have “lost hope” in their home country, she also argued.
Rep. Rohrabacher said the U.S. should prioritize helping refugees who are being “targeted for extinction,” namely Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East who are persecuted for their faith.
“This is what makes us America,” he noted.
“We know that the Christian community in Syria and in Iraq and in that part of the world has been targeted for what most of us would consider genocide,” explained the congressman. “They take the Christians out and they just massacre them now.”
He continued, “The Sunnis and Shiites kill each other, that’s clear… Should we not then try to prioritize so that we take care of those people who are targeted for extinction rather than just people who are caught up in a horrible situation?”
The State Department’s Richard responded by defending the young Muslim men who are fleeing the Middle East.
“Some of them are trying to avoid being drafted into Assad’s regime, into his army, and so I’m very sympathetic to them for that,” she said.
Richard did concede that the U.S. should help the Christian community and other religious minorities like the Yazidi people who she said are “even more miserably treated and murdered and raped.”
Religious minorities are “particularly vulnerable” and that helps them when they apply for refugee status in the U.S., she added.
Richard did not explicitly say that Christians and other minorities are prioritized by the U.S. refugee program. However, she did say that people who are vulnerable, like those suffering from an illness without access to health care, are considered a priority.