So one week into office, President Trump initiates an executive order regarding Syrian refugees, and both sides and the media have gotten incredibly passionate about it. As a Christian and an American, with so many of today’s issues I feel the heavy burden of BOTH polarized responsibilities, the refugees and our own citizens, the mother and her unborn child, and so on and so forth… God, help us find a way to love them both! With the Syrian refugee crisis in particular, there are some valid concerns out there, but I think a lot of people are missing some crucial details and perspectives.
To start off, I want to state that I absolutely agree that we MUST remain a nation who is a beacon of light and a refuge to the world. This is a core value of our nation going back to the beginning. We can also all agree, I believe, that Islamic radicals (not the good Muslim population as a whole) stand for ideology that is directly and aggressively against the basic values of this nation and our Constitution, and have themselves announced that they will be using our refugee program to get into our Western countries (– this has already become evident in Europe).
Questions we face:
So what do we do? How do we as nation, and many of us as Christians, balance the value of being a refuge for the world’s oppressed against the weight of responsibility to protect those who already call this nation their home. I do not envy those who have to make these life and death decisions.
I think there is a wide spectrum of possible responses to this issue. IMO, we could/should be doing more to protect what is precious here, but also have an obligation to balance that out against the extreme of complete and permanent banning. Either extreme is problematic and dangerous. I passionately pray that President Trump and our policy makers can come to a wise solution.
My background and perspective:
My own parents came here as refugees in the late 80’s after fleeing religious persecution in Romania. I was a toddler at the time, but I have heard the story told so many times, and I know what a risk and sacrifice it was for my parents. They are the bravest people I know. So yes, I DO think the US should be an asylum for the persecuted and oppressed. This is especially true for us as a Christian family, I believe we are to help those in need or danger. So you would think I would be absolutely against what Trump is trying to do, and any kind of ban. Well, kind of but not exactly…
Here’s the thing… I don’t believe that placing reasonable limits to protect those already here is wrong, or a result giving into fear. If you were the one being vetted like my parents and many other refugees were, or even temporarily detained, and have to wait and go through the process, you do so knowing that the same process will one day protect you from outside threats, once you are on the inside. I think to many immigrants and refugees, this matters greatly. How can we be a safe haven to anyone, if we are not ourselves safe? This is where reasonable boundaries come in. In life in general, If you have no boundaries and way of protecting what is of value or precious to you, it cheapens the value of what you have. I don’t believe this is un-Christian.
Here’s a thought. Hypothetically, if I knew that the people in Romania who wanted to kill or jail my family for being Christians wanted to come to the US as well, I would hope that the US would not allow them to enter, or at least do its best to block them, and though it can be unbelievably frustrating at times (talk to any of my extended family), I’d understand if they needed to slowly process us through, and interview us and check our background and back-story out, all for the purpose of making sure we are not a part of the group that was doing those things. I believe a lot of immigrants and refugees like us, would have an understanding and respect for the fact that though it may take longer and we may be treated suspiciously at first, would accept it with the hope that it would ensure that America is a safer place than the place we were leaving, and that once we went through the process, our family would also benefit from that protective process. The reason we came here is because the United States above all was a safe place and a free place, so having that boundary in place is crucial. You can’t be free if you are not safe.
So how does this act by Trump play into this?
There is some great news some seem to be been overlooking, and I’d love sort of try to calm things down and set the record straight:
To quote a friend, “There is a megaton of deliberately misleading information about what Trump has done. The current orders are temporary and there is no “Muslim ban” by any reasonable definition. Early actions should be viewed SKEPTICALLY, but without hysteria. Should an actual, honest to god Muslim ban be enacted, it should be vigorously opposed by Christians, lovers of religious liberty, etc. It borders on unconstitutional and certainly is inconsistent with our values.”
Here are some, I believe, encouraging & crucial aspects of Trump’s plan:
A. ITS TEMPORARY –
“President Trump has signed an executive order that temporarily suspends the U.S. refugee program and bars Syrian refugees. It will likely suspend immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries…” (quote from The Atlantic)
I think a temporary ban could be necessary if only to give time to implement more specific and effective vetting, which currently needs some adjustments according to the conditions we face today. But I think it should only be temporary. It would allow us to get organized and come up with a more effective plan.
Here are the specifics from this investors.com article:
“The executive order Trump signed Friday afternoon instituted a 90-day suspension of immigrants from countries listed by the Obama administration as having a significant foreign terrorist organization presence. The reason is to give relevant agencies the breathing room to review their procedures and make sure that “adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals.”
The order also suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, giving Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence time to “determine what additional procedures should be taken” to make sure that terrorists aren’t slipping in under the guise of refugees — a legitimate concern. It also sets a slightly lower 50,000 cap on refugees for this year than has been in effect over the past decade.”
B. ITS SPECIFIC – “bars the admission of anyone who engages in “acts of bigotry or hatred,” including “the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own.” (quote from The Atlantic)
I am not sure anyone would have a problem with this. It is what this country stands for. I don’t think race or ethnicity should result in anyone being banned from coming here, though some “transfers” in those categories may require more investigating if they come from somewhere with a high percentage of people with dangerous ideology… to make sure we only allow vetted, safe people here. I do think ideology should absolutely be a factor when it is a direct threat to our constitution and way of life here, especially when its core has a built-in call to exterminate people who believe in the freedoms we enjoy here.
C. IT HAS NEEDED BUILT-IN EXCEPTIONS: “It also allows the the secretaries of State and Homeland Security to jointly admit individuals on a case-by-case basis, “including when the person is a religious minority … facing religious persecution.” ” (quote from The Atlantic)
This addresses the major concern most people are voicing, which is how can we help those in trouble? There is a built in exception that allows us to reach out to those who are in trouble, which fits our nation’s mandate, and especially our call as Christians to reach out to the oppressed.
IMO I don’t think shutting off all outsiders from our nation, permanently, is right, but I think slowing and narrowing the process in certain situations, and proceeding cautiously may be wise in certain scenarios, that’s what Trump’s plan right now is sounding like to me. (Feel free to correct me if I am misinformed.) I also think shutting off access temporarily and for a specific purpose may be called for sometimes, as long as there is a goal in mind and reasonable plans to make it happen within a certain time frame. As of right now, it sounds like this is the nature of what Trump’s administration is trying to do, but there are still a lot of logistical issues to be worked out.
Another key thing to keep in mind is the numerous historical precedents for this type of situation (from this investors.com article):
“The countries involved in the 90-day suspension — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen — weren’t named in Trump’s executive order. They were listed by the Obama administration as countries of special concern under a 2015 law that requires anyone who even visited one of these terror-prone countries to undergo special scrutiny before coming to the U.S. — even if they hail from a country that otherwise doesn’t require a visa to visit the U.S.”
“President Obama himself barred large groups of immigrants from entering the U.S. at least six times out of national security concerns, according to a review last June by the Washington Examiner. In 2011, the administration suspended refugee processing from Iraq for six months to make sure terrorists weren’t exploiting the program.”
“The Examiner also found that “President Bill Clinton issued six immigrant bans; George W. Bush six immigrant bans; and former President Ronald Reagan four. And in 1980, former President Jimmy Carter banned Iranians after Tehran seized the U.S. embassy.” ”
“Data from the Migration Policy Institute shows that, while the cap was higher under the previous two presidents, the actual number of refugees admitted over the past 15 years has been at or below 50,000 most of the time. In fact, the average number of refugees admitted under Bush was 48,000 a year.”
I think as Americans, and Christians it is great that we are concerned about this, and we SHOULD feel a responsibility to those needing refuge. So it is going to be our job over these next months to watch out as these strategies coming from the White House unfold, and keep the President accountable to staying on task and working towards solutions that will allow us to still help those seeking refuge AND protect the nation. Its not going to be perfect — It will be messy, so we need to be praying for the President, his staff, and Congress as they work all of this out. I think the nation has made it very clear that we are watching this very closely, and I am sure Trump himself is aware of that. I pray they make wise decisions. I also hope that the American public can keep in mind what a complex issue this is, and not get sucked into the polarizing headlines most media outlets are wanting us to believe. Often the truth is mixed in there, but it takes a bit of sifting to get through.
For right now, I think the way the changes are worded are reasonable, but it looks like its going to be messy. I am nervous about how this will play out but take comfort that as of now the changes are temporary, and there are exceptions built in so that those in danger can still be helped, and those with a history of violent and hateful acts are specifically banned.
Thoughts anyone? I’d love to hear your thoughts, even if you disagree with me. And if I missed some piece of info or you feel I am misinformed, feel free to comment. Just be respectful.