I know everyone has pretty much moved on from “discussing” President Trump’s executive order on immigration, (sadly I don’t think that most of the posts I’ve seen on social media really count as “discussion”) but I thought I’d share a few summary observations on the issue now that the dust has settled a bit. I don’t have any groundbreaking insights but I’m going through this exercise if for no other reason than to organize my own thoughts on the matter.
First, I want to acknowledge that I don’t have a clue how any government is supposed to balance national security and a compassionate response. The fact is that we live in an age of nation states, and unless everyone wants to shred their passports and erase all the borders, governments are going to have to make decisions about who they let into their countries, and it will inevitably mean excluding someone. Just the simple acknowledgment of this tension has, in my opinion, been absent in a lot of the reactions I’ve seen from the “Let Them In” side. Surely you don’t mean “let everyone in all the time,” so what exactly do you mean? Can we at least admit that immigration is complicated and that if we were president, we would have a really hard time wrestling with how to best fulfill our duties as president, protecting the people who we have leadership over to the best of our abilities, while also being compassionate and accepting of the vulnerable?
On the other hand, I am in full agreement with those who say this executive order is extremely problematic. It seems to have been hastily thrown together and implemented without any thought to the consequences, logistically and humanely speaking. Without getting into the particulars, I’ll just say that I think the gains in public safety resulting from this order will be minimal if nonexistent, while the human cost has been immediate and will, in my opinion, ultimately be exponentially greater than any security achieved. That human cost is the nuance that has been missing from the “Keep Them Out” side, as is any admission that it’s impossible to eliminate risk or guarantee safety through any political means. I also think that we have to be brutally honest and recognize that both xenophobia and an idolization of safety are, to some degree or another, part of this narrative.
In the end, I am sad for all the people who are living in limbo right now because of this possibly-necessary but certainly poorly-conceived order, both visa holders and refugees. I believe it’s unjust that the U.S. Government is penalizing those who have done nothing wrong at this point, many of whom are just trying to escape unimaginable suffering in their native land, and who have jumped through every hoop to be here legally. Illegal immigration is a whole other nuanced issue, but the populations affected by this order have done nothing but obey the laws of our land thus far. I hope that these restrictions are truly only temporary, and that at the least, the government can do whatever it needs to do to quickly reinstate the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for ALL refugees, not just the Middle Eastern ones and not just the Christian ones. We will just have to wait and see how all of this plays out.
So those are my general thoughts. If nothing else, a silver lining is that everyone suddenly cares about refugees now. (Sorry, was that cynical?) I just hope that all this concern translates into a real boost in financial support and community engagement to the organizations who were serving refugees long before this became a hot topic, and that this doesn’t just fizzle out, another discarded slacktivist cause.
I’ll close this post by drilling down one level further to what I believe are some of the responsibilities for us as believers on this issue.
- Pray. Apart from Him we can do nothing, so pray. Pray for President Trump. Pray for help to trust God’s sovereignty in all of this matter. Pray for wisdom and humility in how to view this situation. Pray for the refugees and the vulnerable people adversely affected by this order. Pray for the organizations that are serving them. And pray that one way or another, God might bring more people into His family through all these events.
- Don’t get sucked into the lie that you have to be on a “side.” If we truly believe that every situation is tainted by sin (others’ and our own) and also that every situation is an opportunity to display God’s light and life, we will be able to see things for what they are and walk humbly, with grace and wisdom. We will walk like Jesus, who, when presented with a binary choice, said, “Neither. I have a better way.” So don’t let the world bully you into picking a team.
- Know that regardless of any government policy, the responsibility of the Church and the individual believer to “the least of these” is crystal clear in Scripture. Just to name a few: We are to love our enemies (Matthew 5 – whether you define “enemy” as a Muslim or as Trump, love and pray for them ALL). We are to care for the widow and the orphan (James 1). We are to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25). And we are to consider others as better than ourselves (Philippians 2).
- Walk the walk. If we say with our mouths and Facebook posts that we care about refugees, and that Jesus cares about refugees, we better back that up somehow lest we become hypocrites. And while I don’t’ think there’s anything wrong with participating in a peaceful protest or a march, our response should certainly extend far beyond just that. It only takes a few minutes of basic web research to find some tested, efficient, and gospel-centered organizations and churches who are caring for refugees here and abroad.