I want to offer some thoughts on immigration, given the heated debate taking place in our nation over President Trump’s recent Executive Orders. I want to consider these questions from the perspective of the U. S. bishop’s pastoral statement, Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity. Today and Wednesday, I’ll summarize and discuss the Executive Order related to refugee entry into the United States from Muslim-dominated countries, and the distinction between immigrant and refugee. I hope to address other issues related to immigration, such as the building of a wall on the southern border and how to address sanctuary cities, in the future.
First, let’s review was President Trump’s Executive Order orders:
- A 90 day moratorium on entry into the United States from seven countries: Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. These countries were identified as either facing anarchy or as having strong radical Islamic influences in their governments, making it impossible for the U. S. to rely on information provided by these countries in order to properly vet immigrants and refugees, by the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015” (updated in 2016). This Act received overwhelming support by Democrats in Congress and was signed by President Obama.
- Suspends admission of refugees from any country (not just those seven) for 120 days in order to conduct a review of the vetting process.
- Suspends admissions of refugees from Syria indefinitely.
- Caps the number of refugees received into the United States at 50,000 for 2017.
Is Trump’s Executive Order different from other presidents? Yes, it really is. The last six presidents (with the exception of George H. W. Bush) have banned immigration to the U. S. by citizens of particular countries, but usually tied to criminal activity on the part of those citizens, rather than a total ban on everybody. This was the case in President Obama’s ban on people from Iraq. Obama ordered a six month ban on Special Immigrant Visas for people from Iraq. Reagan put a near total ban on people immigrating from Cuba, and Carter imposed a ban on people immigrating from Iran during the Iran hostage crisis. But, a total ban on immigration by everybody from so many countries is unprecedented.
Another concern raised by critics of Trump’s Executive Order is that it’s seen as a ban on Muslims. While it’s argued that presidents have the authority to ban immigrants, at least temporarily, based on whatever reason they see fit, it’s indecent and contrary to American values to ban people based on their religion. Some supporters of Trump have insisted that it’s not a “Muslim ban” since the moratorium applies to anyone from these countries, Muslim or not. But, all of these countries are Muslim-dominated countries, and Trump himself called for a ban on immigration to the U. S. by Muslims during his campaign. So, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t a ban on Muslims for being Muslim.
What’s the difference between an immigrant and a refugee? An immigrant is someone who moves from one country to another usually for reasons such as economic gain or educational opportunities. There is a legal process for entering a country. Depending on the country and why a person wants to move, this process can be either pretty easy or pretty difficult. Countries often place limits on how many immigrants can move to their country and from which countries immigrants are allowed to move. For instance, the United States generally admits people as either visitors or workers. If you’re a visitor, you have to prove that you’re coming just to visit and not to stay. If you can’t prove that you don’t intend to stay (by, for instance, showing that you already have a job, a family and property holdings in your home country), than you’re not allowed in even as a visitor. This pretty much limits visitors to people who are more well-off. If you want to come to the U. S. to work, you need a work visa, and that can take some time. For those wondering, “Why don’t illegal immigrants just come here legally?” this link might prove helpful:
But, it isn’t jus the U. S. Australia is pretty restrictive in who they let in. They love people to visit “down under” as a tourist, but unless you belong to a profession that can benefit their country, such as medicine or nursing, don’t plan on staying. They’re not interested in having you. A somewhat humorous example of this was that of the celebrities who vowed to move to Canada if Trump won the election. When Trump did win, a lot of Canadians were quick to point out that their immigration laws aren’t the kind that let you just pack your bags, cross the border, and move in. Canada also has immigration laws that aren’t so welcoming.
Refugees, on the other hand, are those who flee to another country in an effort to escape horrors such as war, persecution, or famine. Laws on allowing in refugees are generally looser, less strict, since they’re seen as fleeing for their lives. Even still, the U. S., as well as other countries, limits the number of refugees allowed in in any given year and also from what countries refugees are allowed.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.