Ironically, it might help to begin this post with something that could upset both sides on the two main political spectrum’s. First, the title of this article has probably already upset many of my conservative friends, as apparently 68% of white evangelicals believe that the US has NO obligation to accept immigrants (See Article Here). I find that revolting.
However, this article, and my views, are not some left-wing liberal propaganda either. I can tell you (much to the disappointment I am sure of especially my younger or more “progressive” friends) that I am not a liberal and take issue with much of the Democrat platform (especially their stance on abortion, which I find to be terrifying in their minimizing, justifying and even celebration in some cases of a terrible holocaust among the absolute most vulnerable people of all. See my article on Abortion here). Personally, I think if you are going to champion refugee’s at the border, then be consistent and champion children in the womb. And if you are going to champion children in the womb, be consistent and champion refugee’s at the border.
So…now that perhaps all my friends are disappointed, let me go on to the current immigration debate. While this has become a hot political issue in our culture with intense rhetoric, I don’t view it mainly as a political issue (of which there is enough hypocrisy on both sides to be completely nauseating). I see this as an issue in which we are dealing with real people, in real need, who are really vulnerable; and yet, we are filled (coming from both sides) with misinformation, fear and misunderstanding.
That said, it is an issue that absolutely requires political action (such as a new and updated immigration system) and of which politics plays a vital role. At the time of writing this, this article has come out: Trump Officials Pressing to Slash Refugee Admission to Zero. This is a problem, but the real problem is in our hearts and heads. Thus, I have written this article to try to speak into a few of the top common immigration myths I hear in our current rhetoric.
- We are being invaded by people who want to destroy America and our way of life!
First, I think it’s important we remember our own history here. Could our subconscious fear and suspicion of others destroying our way of life perhaps have anything to do with our immigrant past in this country and treatment of Native Americans? Just saying…
That aside (as an issue in and of itself), this fear is unfounded. The vast majority of refugee’s would prefer not to leave their countries of origin if given a real choice. We might think America is the “greatest.” Others may admire certain realities. But home is often home. This is certainly true for most refugee’s seeking asylum. (Just talk to a real refugee). They are being forced out by religious persecution, war, systemic poverty, injustice, and violence often perpetrated by corrupt governments or gangs. Most love their countries and find it a last resort to seek a new life in a new country that is completely foreign.
If you have ever uprooted your family and moved to even another community or state, you know it is not easy. Even if in the same country, speaking the same language, there are cultural differences and fear of the unknown. I grew up in rural Lancaster Country, PA. After being married and having our first child, we moved just two and a half hours away to the Jersey Shore where we didn’t know anyone and weren’t from that community. We found out quickly that while there were many similarities, there were also many differences in the way we talked, in the values of the community, and certain ways of life.
Virtually all immigrants/refugee’s come to America because they believe life, for various reasons, would be better here than their home country. They come here specifically because of what they perceive the American way stands for and could mean in their lives; not to destroy it.
Yes, they bring some cultural differences and diversity, but this is not the same as destroying America or it’s “values.” If anything, the majority come with strong faith backgrounds, family values, a hard-work ethic and everything we would say is truly “American.” Plus, their diversity, adds a dimension of vibrancy that is healthy and what America is all about (E pluribus unum: out of many one)! Think of all the amazing food we now enjoy right here in America that have come from around the world (German, Italian, Irish, Indian, Middle East, Asian, Mexican etc). Our staff just got back from eating at a Little India/Nepal restaurant and it was wonderful!
Imagine how boring life would be if we were all robotically the same. Diversity is a good thing and within diversity there still can be unity. Heaven for example, will be filled with people from every tribe, tongue, language and nation (see Revelation 5:9-10), all united around the throne worshiping Jesus. Faith in Jesus does not eliminate diversity. Rather, it destroys all that so easily and unnecessarily creates fear and division between us, such as race, gender, age, socioeconomic status, etc (see Ephesians 2:14-17, Galatians 3:26-29).
Also, let’s keep in mind that immigrants who have entered this country legally, or refugee’s who have found asylum, have been required to undergo an intense immigration screening process and orientation that sometimes makes them more knowledgeable and appreciative of the American constitution and history than many natural citizens born in America who take being American for granted.
Ironically, this fear is actually nothing new. Did you know Benjamin Franklin articulated this very fear all the way back in 1751 when a wave of German immigrants started coming to America: “Why should [immigrants] establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens who will shortly be so numerous as to [change] us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion?”
That turned out to be quite the misguided fear didn’t it?
- Immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, are taking away American Jobs!
This is blatant misinformation. Statistics show that immigrants actually help the economy not hurt it, and often expand or create jobs rather than “steal” American jobs.
As is pointed out in the book Welcoming the Stranger: A common frustration with illegal immigration stems from the presumption that undocumented immigrants fail to pay taxes while receiving governmental services. In reality, the reverse is often true: almost all undocumented immigrants pay taxes in one form or another, even though they are ineligible for many of the services that tax dollars support. As the book goes on to detail, undocumented immigrants pay close to $7 billion a year in taxes from purchases made in the US in addition to $3.6 billion in property taxes.
In addition, many immigrants become successful entrepreneurs. It makes sense, as the very fact that they risked so much to leave their countries shows initiative, determination, and resourcefulness. Some of the biggest companies in fact, from Facebook, Yahoo, Apple, Amazon have been created by immigrants to the US (See Article Here). Immigrants are often the one’s who fuel innovation, ingenuity, creative solutions and new jobs.
- Refugee’s are people coming from countries of violence and therefore are dangerous to let into this country!
It is true that many immigrants are fleeing countries of violence. But it is mistaken to say that immigrants are violent and dangerous themselves.
First, they are the victims of horrible violence themselves. They are fleeing because they are on the receiving end. And even for those who have entered this country illegally, they are 44% less likely to be imprisoned than native-born US Citizens. When they are imprisoned, it is mainly because of being undocumented, certainly not because of violent crimes. Statistically, they are far more likely to have crimes committed against them while in the US than to commit crimes themselves in the US! (See article here).
Secondly, almost half of the refugee’s that have been legally accepted into the country over the last ten years have been Christians, many fleeing persecution in their countries. The vast majority of current refugee’s seeking refuge in the US are also Christian. This means for those of us identifying as Christians, we are rejecting our brothers and sisters in Christ! And what frightens me is that according to Jesus himself In Matthew 25; he takes it personally. Whatever we do (or do not do) for the “least of these” we do (or do not) do unto him. That’s some pretty serious words to dismiss so causally. It should give us pause before rationalizing or justifying our rhetoric and attitudes towards immigrants.
Thirdly, for those who are not coming into this country as believers, shouldn’t we as believers consider this a historical opportunity instead of a political problem or threat? For years, Christians have gone on mission trips to other countries or prayed for those in dangerous parts of the world. But now that others from these same countries are coming here, we protest instead of witness? What’s the deal?
I believe we have elevated “love for country” above “love for neighbor” and in doing so are buying into all kinds of misinformation, political propaganda, fear based rhetoric and are more concerned with maintaining our comfortable and complacent life-styles than doing the hard work of putting our love for God into action by loving our neighbors (and strangers) as ourselves. Perhaps we don’t grasp the Gospel, Great Commission, Great Commandment, and what it means to be a Christian as we think we do. Perhaps we are committing idolatry, elevating love for country above love for Christ, one another and others. Perhaps we have lost an eternal kingdom perspective and are operating from an earthly only mind-set. Perhaps our views are more informed by our feelings and political talk-shows than Scripture.
- We have no responsibility to accept refugee’s from other countries that are a mess. Let them go back to their own countries and solve their own problems!
First, let me just start from a mere human compassion perspective. I find it shocking that this is spoken with such little compassion or empathy. Just from a sheer humane response perspective how can we be so cold-hearted as to dehumanize real people, created in the image of God, and view them as problems that need to go away? We are facing an historical global refugee crises (over 60 million people) and our attitude is that it is “not our problem” and “not our responsibility!” Is this how we would want to be treated? This is a very dangerous slope to go down when we stop seeing people as human, but see humans as problems.
Secondly, from a Christian/Scripture perspective: does that attitude sound like Jesus at all? Is that rhetoric and response reflective at all of God’s heart and Scriptures numerous commands from beginning to end regarding our treatment of the foreigner/refugee? (See Article here: What the Bible Says About How to Treat Refugees). This is Jesus in disguise and we are turning him away (See my Article: Welcoming the Refugee)! Jesus clearly taught us that our neighbor is anyone, anywhere in need (no matter how different from us) in the story of the Good Samaritan. We have a Christian responsibility. We can come to different conclusions (helping solve root problems in countries and work to create conditions that refugees can return etc) or sense of leading in how best this might be done, but we all need to be personally and collectively engaged in serving those in need.
One could even argue that the Bible (and history itself) is a story of immigrants/refugee’s that God used to bless the world or change the world. From Abraham, called to immigrate from his hometown to Canaan, to Joseph taken against his will to Egypt, to the Jewish people who left Egypt to take possession of the promised land, to Ruth and Naomi, to Esther saving her people in a foreign land, to Jesus himself and his followers who were dispersed by persecution, but brought with them the Gospel to the places they went. The New Testament even reminds believers that we were once “strangers” cut off from God but he welcomed us. And now, we are to live our lives as “strangers” on this earth, since our true home is heaven and we are citizens of his kingdom.
Thirdly, is this even an American response? Whatever happened to what is on the plaque of the Statue of Liberty itself:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Or, what about from George Washington’s lips himself: The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions, whom we shall welcome to participate in all of our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the employment.
Fourthly, let’s talk about these “problems of other countries” and what created them. It has been clearly demonstrated (See Article Here) that the current crisis we see at the border in Mexico has been at the very least, partly created by US intervention over the past half century specifically in the Northern Triangle of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador). This means we bear some responsibility and can’t just tell people to “go back and fix their own problems.” It is our collective responsibility. We need to deal with the immediate crisis and also long-term solutions dealing with root issues.
Fifthly, let me ask a simple question: is that what our ancestors did who came to the US? Did they turn back to fix their own problems in their own countries or did they enter the America’s seeking for a new start? Is this what you would want to tell your ancestors? Isn’t it a double standard and hypocritical to tell others to do the very opposite of what we did or want?
Lastly, let me ask two more questions in closing this article out. What are we really afraid of? Can we just admit our fears and seek true understanding while showing human empathy even while ensuring a safe, secure and just immigration policy? And secondly, can we see our own biases, prejudices, and arrogance in our rhetoric towards immigrants and refugees? Even if we think America is truly the greatest country on earth, what is it that has made it great? I submit to you a big part of it has to do with her immigrants and refugees.
***For some articulate books on this issue I recommend the following:
- Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion, & Truth in the Immigration Debate
- Serving God in a Migrant Crisis: Ministry to People on the Move
- The God who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible, and the Journey to Belong
- Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis.