Chaldean News publishers posed questions to the U.S. Senator on issues related to Iraq and Christians in the Middle East.
CN: What is your take on the Christian Iraqis and others being deported?
Gary Peters: I have heard firsthand from community leaders about the chilling effect of increased deportations and the devastating effects on their families. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has a responsibility to be transparent in its operations and communicate with local communities and law enforcement about ICE policies and activities.
CN: Is this truly a target of people who are illegally here and have committed federal crimes?
GP: I am committed to securing our borders against drug trafficking and human smuggling, but I also believe the federal government has limited resources and should focus on those individuals who pose the most threat like gang members and violent criminals. I have concerns with the Trump Administration’s shift in immigration policy. While President Trump has stated they are focused on deporting those who commit crimes, there have been a number of reports of law-abiding community members facing deportation. That’s why it was so important that the Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, visited Metro Detroit earlier this year - so that he could hear the concerns of the community firsthand, and build on these discussions to make meaningful progress. I was pleased that the Chaldean community was represented in those discussions.
In order to truly address our broken immigration system, Congress needs to come together in a bipartisan way to enact comprehensive immigration reform that will secure America’s borders and strengthen our economy.
CN: How are the Democrats in D.C. working with the Trump administration on foreign policy?
GP: Whether it is the fight against ISIS, the threat posed by North Korea or America’s commitment to NATO, the Trump Administration has yet to present a consistent, coherent foreign policy. I am additionally concerned about President Trump’s proposed budget, which calls for deep cuts to the State Department - limiting America’s ability to pursue diplomatic and political avenues in an effort to deescalate situations or resolve conflicts peacefully.
Earlier this year, I traveled to Germany for the Munich Security Conference, where I met with foreign leaders and dignitaries about a range of security challenges facing the U.S. and our allies. It was very clear in my discussions that our allies are extremely concerned about Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, the future strength of NATO and attempts to influence elections in other countries. The world still looks to United States as a global leader, and we must uphold our commitments to the NATO alliance, which is critical to maintaining world stability and battling groups like ISIS - which has committed unspeakable acts against Christians and religious minorities that amount to crimes against humanity and genocide and must be defeated.
CN: Do you think the Affordable Care Act with ever be rescinded or amended? If yes, how? If no, Why?
GP: The repeal plan passed by the House of Representatives is not a responsible path forward.
I am deeply opposed to the provisions allowing states to opt out of critical protections that ensure affordable coverage to millions of Americans - including those with pre-existing conditions - and get rid of essential health benefit standards like mental health and substance abuse care. I’m also opposed to the plan because it guts standards that prevent insurance companies from charging older customers more for their insurance, and allows insurance companies to charge women more than men. Groups like AARP, the American Medical Association, and the American Hospital Association have all come out against dangerous proposals that are included in this plan.
Democrats and Republicans need to work together to find commonsense solutions that improve the Affordable Care Act rather than denying care to those who need it most. For example, I’ve supported proposals to reform the Affordable Care Act’s small business tax credits to simplify the process and ensure more businesses are eligible to apply.
CN: What is your assessment on more Christian Iraqis being allowed into the United States?
GP: In 2015, I sent a letter to President Obama urging his administration to resettle more Syrian refugees and particularly persecuted religious minorities, including Iraqi Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen and Kurds. Iraqi Christians have a rich history and culture, but it may be lost forever if they do not receive critical protections. That’s why I deeply opposed President Trump’s initial travel executive order that suspended all refugee admissions from Iraq and Syria, and I continue to oppose any efforts to close our doors to those fleeing the violence and brutality of groups like ISIS.
CN: As a member of the Armed Services, what is your perspective on the future of Mosul, Iraq and the Nineveh Plains?
GP: In 2015, I had the opportunity to visit Iraq and meet with Iraqi Christian leaders, including Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni. He told me that, ultimately, Iraqi Christians want to return to the Nineveh Plains, the place they have called home for centuries. As the Iraqi Army continues its battle to reclaim Mosul, it is very important that the future safety and security religious minorities are taken into consideration and that Christians are given the opportunity to return to their homes and live safely.
CN: How would you like to see the United States and other countries handle the situation in Syria?
GP: I believe our ultimate goals in the Syrian conflict should be restoring stability to the region and providing safety and security for the Syrian people, who have endured unspeakable terror at the hands of their own government. Any government that uses chemical weapons to kill innocent men, women, and children must be condemned and be warned that such an action will not be tolerated.
The situation in Syria requires an international response. The U.S. should continue working to build a coalition that includes Arab partners such as members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. President Trump must follow up the recent air strikes on Syrian military targets with a clear plan to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria. I am disappointed that President Trump has not yet presented Congress with a strategy or plan for Syria.
CN: Any other issues you see of importance or top priority for you?
GP: My top priority in the U.S. Senate is growing our economy and creating more good-paying jobs in Michigan. With small businesses creating two out of every three new jobs in our country every year, I am working to make sure entrepreneurs have access to capital to start and grow their businesses. That includes bolstering the Small Business Administration’s flagship lending program, 7(a) loans and increasing federal outreach to minority-owned small businesses. We also have to make sure our kids are receiving a quality education that will prepare them for the jobs and businesses of the future.