By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent
BAGHDAD, IRAQ (Worthy News)– The immigration status of thousands of Christians fleeing from persecution in Iraq are now in limbo thanks to new security measures.
After two Iraqis were arrested in May and charged with aiding al Qaeda in Iraq, hundreds of their fellow Iraqis have been denied entry into America as authorities seek to uncover any potential terrorists from among them.
Enhanced background checks have plugged the refugee pipeline, preventing Iraqi Christians and others from obtaining clearance to come to the U.S., according to Jenny Yang, advocacy director for World Relief.
Nearly half of all Iraqi refugees were denied entry to the U.S. because of missing documentation as they hurridly fled their homes without official paperwork.
The precise reason why many Iraqis are refused refugee status is unclear, said Yang. "When we've raised these cases, we've not gotten any clear reasons ye. It’s causing a lot of confusion."
This is especially true for Iraqi Chaldean Christians, according to Rafat Ita, a social worker in the 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.
"These (Christian refugees) cannot go back to Iraq because they could be killed," said Ita. "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."
"We're not a violent group," Ita said. "We're Christians who believe in peace."
Hundreds of Iranian Christians are also in limbo in Austria after the end of a U.S. program that protected religious minorities; since 1989, the program had given asylum to 440,000 Christians, as well as persecuted Christians and Jews from the former Soviet Union.
Victims of persecution are those who are harassed, discriminated against and threatened with physical violence or imprisonment because of their religious beliefs.