Bishop Bawai Soro said he and most of his fellow Iraqi refugees were happy to wait years to reach America

An Iraqi-American bishop has defended attempts by President Donald Trump to introduce a travel ban on refugees.

Chaldean Catholic Bishop Bawai Soro, based in El Cajon, California, who arrived in the US as a refugee more than 40 years ago, said in an article for the San Diego Tribune that coming to America was not a right but a privilege.

He wrote: “Being delayed as a refugee is not a new thing. All the previous administrations, since President Carter, delayed numerous refugees and migrants not only for months but also for years. If Americans really believed that coming to America was a universal human right, I assure you that by now the US population might have reached three billion, instead of only 325 million.”

He added: “If America needs to build a wall and vet refugees, then it must be so. If a simple house is to be secured, doesn’t the owner of the house lock the doors at night? What happens if thieves know the door is unlocked? Open borders and easy-going immigration policies are what could inflict the US with the fire that has been burning in the Middle East for centuries.”

Bishop Soro explained that he had fled Iraq for Lebanon in 1973 just as Saddam Hussein tightened his grip on power as de facto head of the country.

He continued: “While in Lebanon, the civil war started and tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians got stuck for years, enduring unemployment, poverty and dangers of war. Yet most refugees were thankful to stay in Lebanon while tolerating such conditions for the purpose of reaching America. Most of us waited not for three months but for three years; I know a family who waited 15 years. Ultimately it all paid off when in 1976 the US resettled these Iraqi refugees in the land of the free and home of the brave.”

Bishop Soro’s stance is in contrast to the US Catholic bishops’ conference, whose officials have roundly condemned the president’s executive order.

The order, which suspended the entire US refugee resettlement programme for 120 days and banned entry of all citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days, was blocked by three federal judges.

A new order is expected to be introduced next week.