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Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Supports Trump's Immigration Ban

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Refugees and other foreigners were held at airports across the country yesterday as President Trump's executive order limiting entry into the United States went into effect. By evening, a federal judge in Brooklyn had issued an emergency stay on a part of the president's actions. And today, two additional district courts issued restraining orders.

We're still learning about the details of the ruling. Administration officials have provided mixed messages on the Sunday talk shows about what this means specifically for U.S. green card holders. There's no confusion, though, about the purpose of executive order itself. President Trump said it clearly in a tweet this morning (reading) our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting.

Mark Krikorian is the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. He has praised the action. Thank you for being with us, sir.

MARK KRIKORIAN: Well, thanks for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So in this order, Mr. Trump wrote that Christians and others from minority religions should be given priority. How do you respond to critics who say that sounds dangerously close to a religious test?

KRIKORIAN: Well, it's not a religious test. It's a persecution test. In other words, what we're now seeing in the refugee flow - what we've seen, for instance, from the Syrian refugee flow over the past couple of years - is that almost every single person we have admitted from Syria is a Muslim, even though the population is 10 to 12 percent Christian. And they're, frankly, everybody's target. So there's a - our refugee selection system has been skewed, actually, against Christians and Yazidis and frankly (unintelligible)...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But Christians are a minority in Syria. I mean, Christians are a minority in Syria, so it...

KRIKORIAN: Yeah, they're a minority, and they're sort of everybody's target, quite frankly. So I mean, that's why they're a minority and have been for a long time. So in other words, Christian refugees - and there's a lot of them in Turkey and Lebanon and Jordan - are - do not get resettlement offers. They just - it just doesn't work that way.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But what Mister - President Trump has done has banned all refugees from Syria indefinitely. How do you respond to that? Do you think Christians should be given, you know, allowed to come in and not Muslims?

KRIKORIAN: Well, I mean, this actually addresses the broader issue of why are we doing refugee resettlement at all because the fact is that it's dramatically more expensive to bring a refugee here than it is to take care of people there. Our research shows that the cost of resettling a refugee from the Middle East is 12 times greater than taking care of one in the Middle East. We take refugees in order to make ourselves feel better. That's all it is. Because each person we take represent 11 other people that we're not helping but could have with that same money. I think it's selfish, and it's morally wrong to undertake large-scale refugee resettlement. The people we're taking are not emergency cases who literally cannot stay where they are any longer. We are doing this literally to make ourselves feel better, and it's just - it's not right.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Many of these people, of course, are fleeing terrible situations.

KRIKORIAN: They already fled them. They're in Turkey or Jordan. They're not in - they're not being persecuted any longer.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sure, countries that are completely overwhelmed. These are developing...

KRIKORIAN: And we should help them.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And these are developing nations that feel completely overwhelmed. Doesn't the United States - briefly sir - have a moral responsibility to help some of these, you know, refugees resettle in the United States?

KRIKORIAN: I think that you can make a case for that, and if you make a case for that, that's a case against refugee resettlement because if we have a responsibility for helping protect refugees, we can - we are doing it in the most inefficient way conceivable by bringing them to the United States instead of improving the conditions in Turkey or in Jordan or in Lebanon. That has to be our goal, not to pick a lucky few as lottery winners to move them, you know, to Sioux City, Iowa. That doesn't help the other 11 people who are not going to be able to be helped with the money that we have to devote to that one person we're resettling here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mark Krikorian is the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

Thanks for being with us.

KRIKORIAN: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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