Asylum seekers deserve better from America: Opinion

By Star-Ledger Guest Columnist 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on June 28, 2013 at 7:31 AM, updated June 28, 2013 at 11:14 AM

 By Eric P. Schwartz

and M. Zuhdi Jasser

As our nation debates immigration reform, it is time to consider reform of our system of dealing with asylum seekers.

For those seeking freedom and protection from religious or political persecution and other forms of oppression or violence, the United States remains a beacon of refuge — and the New York-New Jersey area, including Newark, among their key destinations.

Through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, the United States will admit and resettle up to 70,000 from around the world this year. Under this program, and in coordination with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, U.S. officials adjudicate cases overseas. Before being admitted, these applicants undergo thorough security and medical screenings.

Read the article at

Chairman Smith Asks Obama Administration For Report On Aid To Syrian Armenians

June 27, 2013

WASHINGTON—Republican and Democratic members of a key U.S. House Foreign Affairs subcommittee joined yesterday with the panel’s Chairman, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), in voicing growing Congressional concern for the welfare of Armenians, other Christians, and all religious minority communities in Syria, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

“We want to thank Chairman Chris Smith for holding yesterday’s hearing about religious minorities in Syria, and would also like to share our special appreciation with all his colleagues who joined with him in using this important national platform to raise concerns about the welfare of at-risk and refugee Armenians, other Christians, and all Syrian minorities,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We are particularly grateful for Chairman Smith’s formal request of the Obama Administration to share with Congress the specific steps that our government is taking to ensure that U.S. aid programs provide needed assistance to vulnerable Armenians in Syria, as well as for those who have left Syria and found refuge in Armenia. We very much look forward to sharing the work of our State Department and USAID on this matter of urgent concern to all Armenian Americans.”

The hearing, titled: “Religious Minorities in Syria: Caught in the Middle,” featured testimony from a State Department human rights official, Thomas O. Melia, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, as well as from a number of experts: Nina Shea, Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom; Zuhdi Jasser, M.D., a Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; Rev. Majed El Shafie, Founder of One Free World International, and; John Eibner, Ph.D., CEO of Christian Solidarity International, USA.

Read More at:

House Hearing on Religious Minorities in Syria

Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 8:56 AM

Yesterday, the US House of Representatives held a joint subcommittee hearing on the situation of religious minorities in Syria, Religious Minorities in Syria: Caught in the Middle. Co-sponsored by the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, the hearing heard from four witnesses, including USCIRF Commissioner Zuhdi Jasser. The hearing extensively addressed the plight of Syria’s Christians.

The whole hearing is worthwhile, but the testimony of the Hudson Institute’s Nina Shea is particularly useful. Shea concedes that “no religious community has been spared suffering” in Syria’s civil war. But “Syria’s ancient Christian minority” faces an existential threat:

Christians, however, are not simply caught in the middle, as collateral damage. They are the targets of a more focused shadow war, one that is taking place alongside the larger conflict between the Shiite-backed Baathist Assad regime and the largely Sunni rebel militias. Christians are the targets of an ethno-religious cleansing by Islamist militants and courts. In addition, they have lost the protection of the Assad government, making them easy prey for criminals and fighters, whose affiliations are not always clear.

Shea documents anti-Christian incidents, some of them quite harrowing. She recommends, among other things, that the US Government direct aid to institutions caring for Christian refugees (who often fear going to refugee camps); expedite immigration applications from Syrian Christians; and ensure that none of its assistance to the Syrian opposition finds its way into the hands of Islamist groups responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Christians.


Read more at First Things

The Syrian riddle

JC Derrick,, 6/26/13

CONGRESS | House panel weighs plight of religious minorities in Syria

WASHINGTON—Despite widespread religious persecution in countries like war-torn Syria, the Obama administration is still opposed to creating a special envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East, according to a State Department official who testified before Congress on Tuesday.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia made the comments at a joint subcommittee hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing room regarding the plight of religious minorities in Syria.

Last week President Barack Obama announced the United States would begin arming Syrian rebels, purportedly because Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons against his own people—which Obama had publicly characterized as a red line for U.S. intervention.


U.S. officials question Obama’s decision to arm Syrian rebels

Al Arabiya, Washington, D.C. – Jordyn Grzelewski, 6/26/13

Some members of the U.S. Congress are calling into question President Barack Obama’s decision to arm the Syrian rebels in light of violence against religious minorities, both at the hands of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and members of the opposition.

“Money talks. The United States should be using assistance to ensure recipient countries and entities have a plan that is implemented to protect vulnerable religious minorities,” Republican Representative Christopher Smith said.

A State Department official, the leader of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and directors of three non-governmental organizations testified about violence against Syria’s religious minorities at a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing Tuesday, most agreeing that U.S. aid to the opposition should at least be conditioned on respect for the rights of minorities.

Read more at Al Arabiva

Muslim Leader, Huckabee Disagree With Rep. McDermott’s Criticism of ‘Faces of Global Terror’ Ad

The Christian Post

June 25, 2013 01:25 PM EDT

Former Arkansas Governor and Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee and Muslim leader M. Zuhdi Jasser strongly disagreed with Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) for claiming an FBI ad “promotes stereotypes and ignores other forms of extremism.”

McDermott claimed the “Faces of Global Terrorism” ad, depicting 16 of the 32 men on the FBI’s most wanted terror list, portrayed fugitives “from only one ethnic or religious group.

Read more at The Christian Post