A Light in the Midst of Dark Immigration Rhetoric

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It's official, Trump's asylum 'crisis' is actually based on legal immigration. 

Immigration was once basically open to anyone:

  • then, limits were written into law and administered by the Department of Labor
  • next administration was moved to the Justice Department
  • most recently, after 9-11, immigration enforcement was moved to the Department of Homeland Security.

Immigration has always been based on the same stories—hardworking ambitious people pulling up stakes for new opportunities and/or people fleeing danger and invigorating new communities when they arrive.

What's changed is that over many years political leaders have made this behavior appear dangerous, corrupt, and illegal—even on the occasions when it is actually totally legal according to our laws. This criminalization of immigration is so pervasive that the word "illegal" is now used as racial slur against people regardless of where they were born—that's crazy.

Unfair harsh treatment of immigrants isn't a new temptation, it's a political power grab that's been refined over centuries and the Gospel intends to reverse it. When Israel was tempted to take advantage of and stigmatize newcomers God warned them to remember that they too were once aliens. The New Testament is full of encouragement to practice hospitality, it's called philoxenia in Greek which literally means love the stranger, the opposite of xenophobia. Immigration is so close to God's heart that scripture uses it as an illustration to reflect our relationship with God. 

As God's word changes hearts it has the power to literally and metaphorically free people from injustice and oppression. As the Holy Spirit works in the heart's of God's people I would love to see more of us be a light and rise above this madness by:

  • not caving to pressure to call people "illegals" 
  • remembering their own family's immigration story
  • talking about the many ways that immigrants are a blessing.
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Kris, another huge change from when "immigration was once basically open to anyone" is this:

Taxpayer funded schools, medical care, welfare benefits, voting rights, etc. that are available to anyone within the geographic borders of the United States.

If you go back to the good old days when ANYONE who could get to America could enter America, those things did not exist. Thus the problem is that OPEN BORDERS and THE WELFARE STATE cannot coexist. To use popular vernacular, those 2 things are unsustainable.

Is it your opinion that any person who is able to get to the border of the United States, who is not suspected of terrorism or criminal activity, and who simply wants a better life, should be allowed to enter the United States?

If you are willing to answer that basic question, it will shed immense light on your ideas, and help us examine their correctness.

This blog wonders why people who follow the law are sometimes cast as criminals—not just in terms of asylum seekers but even on the occasion where U.S. born citizens are called rude names and told to “go home.” I would prefer to keep the discussion here on that more specific topic. It isn’t a great situation to be in as a country because those rude comments turn into policies but as Christians we have an opportunity to change the conversation to something more truthful. 

Another way to shed light on the plight of those leaving central American countries is to listen more to  the TRUTH from Christian leaders in those countries and listen less to politically motivated U.S. media and politicians.    In Honduras, the Associations for a More Just Society (AJS) has been working for over 20 years to identify and eliminate corruption in Honduran education, police, and other systems.  Kurt Ver Beek, one of the founders of AJS, says that no matter what the U.S. does with its own immigration policy, "If things remain terrible [in Central America], the people are going to keep coming."  Another organization, the Micah Project, provides a Christian home for boys on the streets.  Founder, Michael Miller hopes that Christians in the U. S. will remember the value of the longer-term work of spiritual renewal and Christ-centered ministry based in Central America.  He says, "I think the American church has an untapped potential to help Hondurans and Central Americans tap into another kind of life.  It all starts with spiritual life".  The quotes here from Ver Beek and Miller come from a recent article in World Magazine.   Another example of Christian response to the root problems of poverty and suffering is the work of long-term Resonate missionary, Caspar Geisterfer, who has a very effective ministry sponsoring clubs for at-risk youth in Honduras. Compassion International is a Christ-centered, child-focused, Church based ministry that currently sponsors 59,000 children in Honduras. We have much to learn from the  work and perspective of these Christian leaders and organizations.         
 

     The author's statement that the Trump policy is based on legal immigration is based upon a biased source and taken as truth. It's a common logical error to conflate legal and illegal immigration. We are not against legal immigration and the restrictions that are put into place to provide for an orderly increase in our population.

     There's certainly another viewpoint here. To oppose the illegal entry of persons into the country is not racist. The current administration is focused on the entrance of citizens of other countries, uninvited. The author also posits that the people who come here are hard-working individuals fleeing violence in their own countries. Not all entrants fit this model. Those that come uninvited are breaking the law. There are legal ways to enter and stay at least temporarily in the U.S. All such petitions are sent prior to entering the U.S., not after finding a way to enter illegally.

     Can a Christian promote actions that are illegal? Yes the New Testament encourages hospitality. Every human being is precious and should be treated with love an dignity. Helping them break the law doesn't fall under the hospitality supported by the Bible.

Thank you for your thoughts, Susan. Applying for asylum is legal. My interest in writing this article was to process the idea that people who are doing things the right way are still characterized as criminal. I'm not totally sure how we got to this point but I thought it's worth reflecting on. The U.S. immigration website has a pamphlet that describes the steps for asylum in the same ways as they are described in the Vox article:

From the us.gov website...

What is asylum?
Asylum is a form of protection from removal to a country of 1 feared persecution that allows an eligible refugee to remain in
the United States and eventually to become a lawful permanent
resident.

Who can apply for asylum?

Non-U.S. citizens who are physically present in or arrive in the
United States, whether or not at a designated port of arrival,
may apply.

When must I apply for asylum?

Generally you must apply for asylum within one year of your
last arrival into the United States. Exceptions may apply such as
(1) changed circumstances in your home country that affect
your eligibility or (2) extraordinary circumstances related to
your lateness in filing.

Can I apply for asylum if I am here illegally?
Yes. You may apply regardless of your immigration status as
long as you file your application within one year of your last
arrival or demonstrate that you are eligible for an exception to
that rule

Community Builder

Chris. You conflate the "right to apply for asylum" with the "right to claim legal presence in the US."  What you yourself quote (see last question/answer) illustrates that.

I'm not suggesting any of this is simple; it's not.  But is just isn't helpful to be so one-sided on these faddish political issues.  There is much too much of that and it unnecessarily divides (and obscures).

As I said elsewhere, I would emphasize And focus on the work of organizations like Association for a More Just Society.  I note that organization is NOT taking political sides as to US law and policy.  That is both wise and constructive -- for everyone.

Can you please point out where this blog makes the “conflating” error that you are referring to? Also, are you implying that it’s crime to approach a port of entry and plead for asylum? The level of misinformation in that claim is very concerning.

Kris, it seems like we are trying to agree on the furniture and fixtures...but I suspect we have started with 2 completely different foundations. Instead of focusing on a subjective analysis of anecdotal rhetoric (i.e. proposing that when people say "illegal" they mean it as a racial slur...or that people who support border enforcement are doing so out of irrational fear), it would be extremely helpful to be clear about our foundational ideas and positions.

Are you saying that any person who arrives at the border of the United States of America, looking for a better life, should be allowed to enter the United States?

This blog is about asylum and stopping criminalizing people because of their country of origin or the color of their skin. I'm saying that if someone arrives to the U.S. and wants to plead asylum their case should be heard (a) because that's the law (b) because it's the right thing to do. If you want to discuss border security or other immigration topics I recommend putting up your own blog or commenting on the many other immigration blogs on the network that already exist. 

Community Builder

Thanks for the robust conversation on this blog.  I think that the comments have now veered away from the original content of the blog.  This violates our community guidelines. I'm going to suggest that you take this conversation offline or post a new blog related to broader immigration reform and issues if you'd like to go deeper.   

Participant

Rhetoric is essential in discourse. Thus the same word(s)’ meanings change from decade to decade; group to group. Parsing words spurs debate and disagreement.

Each decade our word-meanings change. Unfortunately our Peoples are going through a decade of polarization over Word meaning, context and culture.

Our national house is being struck by lightning: hate, angst, fear and violence fueled by words.

it is my prayer we toughen our spirits, moving past parsing words. Point counterpoint is not brining us closer. With toughened spirits we can draw nearer to the Peace of Christ...together.

Community Builder

I'm a fan of promoting efforts like those of "Association for a More Just Society" (which attacks the problem at its source, with precious little fanfare or political hype).  And if the CRC insists on stepping into the US political fray, advocating somewhat ambiguously for comprehensive immigration reform (CRC/OSJ used to do that).

Articles that push the divide wider, especially on an incredibly complex issue like immigration, are simply unhelpful, and actually harmful.

 

I can tell you’re passionate about sharing another perspective on this topic. Maybe you would like to post a counter point blog on the benefits of criminalizing legal immigrants if you feel there is another side to this.

Participant

Kris, I have found this dialogue interesting.  I am glad that you brought up the topic of immigration in your opening post because I would love to have a more robust conversation about it in the CRC.  I would actually love for Doug to write a counter post. Even better, I would love for the Office of Social Justice or some other 3rd party to do a written Q & A with you both and a few others with different immigration viewpoints and post it the network or in the Banner.  A video chat would be even better.  It would be great if it would addresses more aspects than are dealt with on this blog. Don't have people be afraid of word counts or time and really dive into the biblical rationale for each position.  I think that it would help many to wrestle with what is the right way to deal with the issue.  Please do everything you can in your position to facilitate this.

Like you, I don't like that people of certain ethnic background are often assumed  "illegal" as you lament in the blog.  I have a Hispanic daughter so it is a tender spot for me. 

I also don't think using language like "criminalizing legal immigrants" as you did above to describe Doug's position is accurate description of what I have read from him so far.  Honestly, it puts him a rhetoric disadvantage because you painted him in a negative light.  In doing so, it feels like you are basically doing to the same thing to him you are lamenting in your post that politicians are doing to for legal immigrants.  This saddens me.

Immigration is a very complex issue.   I would love for comprehensive immigration reform.  I just am not quite sure what that looks like, but I would love for us as a Christians to wrestle with it more and get into robust conversations.  I would love it if we could stay above the fray and not use quick labels and sound bites to label immigrants, politicians, blog writers or commenter, but rather dig deep into the topic.  I think it allows us to model to the world that we can do this in a civil manner somethings that is sadly lacking (I hear your lament of this in the post).  Please help do everything you can to expand this conversation.

Kris,

You state that; "Immigration has always been based on the same stories—hardworking ambitious people pulling up stakes for new opportunities and/or people fleeing danger and invigorating new communities when they arrive."

It is elementary English composition to avoid the use of the adverb; always. 

This negates the reality of thousands and thousands of immigrant individuals over the last two centuries who came to America and undertook individual, gang, and organized criminal enterprises.

All of this is rather petty compared to your disregard for the Scriptures in generically labeling immigration as; "so close to God's heart".  The Biblical phrase, after God's own heart, (I Sam 13 & Acts 13) is applied to obedience, reverence, humility, and most of all, repentance.  The individuals gathering en masse at the United States Southern border, do not to me, exhibit these characteristics.  And, if their mobilization were in fact manipulated for political purposes, neither do those manipulators exhibit a closeness to God's own heart.  I Peter chapter 2 teaches us the principles of submission in every sphere, this is not only dear to the heart of God, it is an injunction from Him, regardless of the authority over us.

Secondary to the Scriptures are the reformed confessions of our church.  I would urge you to confer the Belgic Confession Article 36 for a summary of what Scripture teaches about the authority of government.  

 

I'm puzzled as to why this sort of opine is beng promoted by a gospel centered, confessional denomination. 

I think this fits with a gospel centered denomination because people at the Southern border who arrive and ask for asylum are obeying the law and yet they are being cast as criminals. 

Check out in the link below another explanation of the legality of seeking asylum. It’s not really a two sided thing it just is what it is, it’s legal. It isn’t a perfect system but for people who want to plead asylum this is the system we have. I have a lot of respect for people who are making this journey bc not only are they pushing for a better life for themselves they’re also doing much of the work of putting the plight of their home country on our national radar. If no one was arriving at our border seeking asylum I doubt we would be talking about addressing root causes—which is also important. http://immigrationimpact.com/2018/07/17/it-is-legal-to-seek-asylum/

The forces that motivate immigrants to leave a country are more varied than indicated in the article.  One aspect that makes the current immigration situation at our southern border a 'crisis' is the sheer number of immigrants coming en masse in a caravan and expecting immediate entry to the U.S.  How did thousands of people organize themselves into a caravan to travel through multiple countries to reach the U.S. border?  Why did they expect to enter en masse to the U.S.?  An attorney with experience in the Honduran judicial system shared his perspective with me recently that presents a possible explanation.  The caravan is an effort organized in part by a Honduran political party, currently out of power, to draw attention to the failed government of the Honduran political power currently in power for the purpose of ousting the party in power; and, sadly, both of these political powers are corrupt.  Prayer against those who exploit the disadvantaged and prayer/financial support for those seeking positive change in Honduras are essential.     

Community Builder

Hi folks.  Just a reminder to everyone to be aware of the Community Guidelines and to abide within them. The Network moderators are happy to review flagged comments and make our best decisions about how to proceed, but we'd prefer if we didn't have to. It all boils down to being polite, courteous, and Christ-like in the way we communicate online.

Our family has been blessed over the past 22 years with dedicated and faithful caregivers for our disabled son – all of them have emigrated from Africa, complying with the regulations of the U.S. immigration system.  We thank God for providing such a wonderful demonstration of compassion and love to our family through these caregivers.   These men have come here because their home country is poor and the government is (or has been) corrupt.  There are more opportunities available here but it’s not necessarily an easier life.  We admire their work ethic and perseverance.  They often have to work two jobs to get established here.  Several of them attended college here (while working) and were able to more on to more sustainable employment.  On the other hand, we’ve also had undocumented immigrants approach us, seeking employment as health aides.  They usually assume that we, as Christians, will hire them even though to do so would be against the law since they are not authorized to work in this country.  They, too, are seeking to benefit from the opportunities available here that are not available in their home countries due to poverty and corruption.  The folks we’ve interacted with in this context have not been ‘in the queue’ of seeking asylum because they’ve come to realize that they do not qualify.  When we’ve point out that their future and the future of their children (not covered under DACA) are in jeopardy, they respond that they are waiting (and hoping) for expanded amnesty and will continue to live ‘under the radar’ until that time.    

Kris’ article suggests that we shouldn’t cave in to the pressure to call people illegals and encourages Christians to change the conversation to something more truthful. But the truth is that some immigrants in this country have sought or are in the process of seeking legal, permanent status and some are not.   The immigrants themselves understand that there is a distinction.   Christians should be careful about misusing labels but there is so much more that we can do.  Christians can change the immigration conversation to something more truthful by 1) developing a greater understanding of the poverty and corruption that fuels migration and sharing that understanding with others;  and, 2) engaging (and encouraging other Christians and U.S. churches to engage) in compassionate evangelism which is the only true and lasting anti-poverty and anti-corruption work.