Thoughts on Immigration, Part 2

So, things haven’t settled much since the announcement of Trump’s Executive Order.  The lack of communication between appropriate agencies seems to be getting addressed, so the situation for those who had already been vetted and are holding green cards and visas will improve or be corrected.  Of course, the moratorium has faced set-backs in the courts, with one court placing a seven-day hold on enforcement, another court allowing that hold to expire, and a third court placing another hold on the moratorium.  So, as we stand today, the EO is not being enforced while it winds it’s way through the courts.  It will probably end up before the Supreme Court before the question gets settled.  As a result of the hold, the Suleman family from Iraq, who waited more than two years to receive visas and were blocked from entering the United States because of the EO, have arrived in Nashville.

The Catholic bishops, in their pastoral statement, Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity, recommends three principles for a just and workable immigration policy.

First principle: People have a right to migrate to sustain their lives and the lives of their families.

Second principle: A country has the right to regulate its borders and to control immigration.

Third principle: A country must regulate its borders with justice and mercy.

Clearly, these principles proscribe both an open border mentality and a closed border mentality.  The trick is to regulate borders with justice and mercy.  But, what does that mean?  How should that be played out?

No country can be expected to take in all refugees without limit.  Even the vast majority of such refugees who represent no violent threat to established citizens would quickly overwhelm the resources any nation could provide.  The United States has always limited the number of refugees it would take in.  During the height of the Syrian Civil War, from 2011 to 2015, the United States accepted less than 50 refugees a year from Syria.  It was only in 2016 that the door opened again, and more than 12,000 Syrian refugees were allowed in.  Trump’s EO limits refugees entering the U. S. from all countries to 50,000 for 2017.  According to the United Nations, 65 million people were forced to flee their homes in 2016.  50,000 is 0.00076% of 65 million.

Much of the criticism of Trump’s EO centers around four points.  First, critics complain, it’s too broad.  It includes all people from seven countries, as opposed to past presidential immigration moratoriums that included only those who had committed crimes, or were suspected terrorists, etc…, and that the indefinite nature of the ban on Syria (which some critics are wrongly calling a “permanent” ban – there’s a difference between indefinite and permanent) is unjust.  I agree with this criticism.  In my mind, the moratorium is too broad.  It’s possible to limit people with criminal and terrorist intentions from entering the country without so broad a brush as to block the entry of women and children in genuine need.  Second, the critics say it’s a Muslim ban.  I know that Trump’s supporters insist it’s not because it also bans those from minority religions from these countries.  But, let’s face it, when you have Trump during the campaign call for a ban on “all Muslims” entering the U. S. until we can supposedly “figure out what the hell is going on,” and then bans immigrants from seven Muslim-dominated countries, it sure is hard to argue the notion that this isn’t in some way a ban on Muslims, or that Islam isn’t at least a factor in the moratorium.  Frankly, the fact that the moratorium includes religious minorities provides little comfort to me, and no comfort at all to those religious minorities in these seven countries who face religious discrimination and persecution.  Third, critics ridicule the list of countries included by pointing out that immigrants from these countries haven’t been involved in any terrorist attacks in the U. S., and haven’t killed anyone.  But, immigrants from other countries have been terrorizing and killing Americans.  This seems to suggest that the wrong countries are being listed, and we should be banning immigrants from countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  But, Trump has business ties to these countries, so maybe that’s why they’re not on the list.  But, the list was created by the State Department of the Obama administration identifying those countries whose governments were threatened with anarchy or unduly influenced by jihadist Islamist elements.  Actually, according to FOX News, the list was originally created to encourage Americans from going there, not to stop refugees from those countries coming here.  In any case, I doubt adding more countries to the list, or shifting the list around, would mute the criticism.  Finally, critics insist that the vetting process is already very rigorous, and there’s no need to ban immigrants in order to adopt “extreme vetting.”  I think the critics have a strong argument here.  I’m providing a link to a “Cosmos In The Lost” patheos article that offers insight from an immigration lawyer:

Here’s another excellent link to the Pew Research Center on facts about refugees:

Supporters of the EO point to the disaster of Europe as an example of what can happen with unfettered immigration of refugees.  Europe has experienced a genuine crisis, with crime, in particular violent crimes and crimes against women, skyrocketing.  Violence between immigrant groups that hold long-standing grudges against each other is another source of havoc in Europe.  But, the United States isn’t Europe, and no one in a position to effect policy is seriously talking about unfettered immigration.

The bottom line for me is finding a way to assist those in genuine need, who are fleeing for their lives, in particular women, children and religious minorities threatened with persecution, while maintaining a sensible policy of border regulation.  For my money, the EO imposing a moratorium on all people immigrating from these seven countries goes too far, is unnecessary and, in that sense, unjust.  We can do better.  We should do better.

Be Christ for all.  Bring Christ to all.  See Christ in all.



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