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Thursday, December 03, 2015

Hard Topics - Immigration

How many states have come out saying they will refuse Syrian refuges in the wake of the Paris attacks? Not sure, myself. More than a few. And the ACLU is suing the governor of Indiana for doing so in his state. He is accused of violating the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, you see. (I wasn't aware that Syrian citizens fell under the U.S. Constitution, but who knows?)

Russell Moore asks us to "Stop pitting security and compassion against each other." He asks, "Will [these refugees] hear from evangelicals 'Jesus loves you' or will they hear from us 'Who then is my neighbor?'"

And the nation wants both to be secure and to be generous, to be safe and to be inclusive, to be locked tight and open to all. This is not an easy question, either for Christians or America.

So let me see what I can see. First, let's be clear. Opposition to "illegal immigration" is not the same thing as opposition to immigrants. It is opposition to breaking the law. That's the meaning of "illegal". That word is the description of the "immigration" to which people are opposed. Not legal immigration. If immigration law was changed to make it legal for anyone at all to come in, no one would be opposed to illegal immigration ... because illegal immigration would not exist. So let's keep terms straight here. One question is that of doing what is illegal. The other is what should or should not be legal. Don't confuse them.

The second question is the one hotly debated these days. What should be legal? Clearly we are no longer the "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore" country anymore. Not everyone is welcome here. Whether it's a practical question ("How many can we handle?") or a security question ("How do we keep terrorists out?") or otherwise, not everyone is welcome in our country. So how and where should we draw that line? I mean, look, we could solve the whole "border wars", "illegal immigration" problem by simply legalizing everyone. There are those who recommend it, but no country has completely open borders. So ... what is right?

Some considerations.


The obvious question in the wake of the Paris attacks and the current malevolence of groups like ISIS is whether it is safe to allow broad immigration access. Some argue that it's okay because they do extensive background checks on people. Really? I'm not so sure. On the other hand, do we sacrifice liberty for security? I'm not so sure that's a good trade, either. Tough questions.

Rights and Obligations

If we are going to say that it is everyone's right to live where they want, it is important to keep in mind that one person's right entails another person's obligation. For instance, if we say you have the right to the freedom of religion, then we are obligated not to prevent you from practicing your religion. If we say that all people have the right to affordable healthcare, then it will become the obligation of those who can afford healthcare to pay for those who cannot. Rights may afford opportunities, but they also mandate obligations. How much are we willing to obligate from others? And how far would this right go? Affordable healthcare? Education? Housing? Employment? You see, every time we add to the list, there are more obligations. And when do the rights of one person or group of people violate the rights of another? Sticky questions.

Unsavory People

What about those many would agree should not be included in this new immigration policy? One would think we would obviously exclude criminals, but, of course, we'd have to know they were. What about criminals that served their time? Murderers or rapists and the like? What about those with dangerous communicable diseases? The humanitarian in us would long to help them out, but practical thinking questions the safety of doing so. What about these people? And who decides who is "unsavory"?

The Benefits Package

I know people who have worked with illegal aliens. While the legal resident cannot get free healthcare, the illegal alien would go to the hospitals knowing they would. Reports have circulated of unduly large numbers of illegal immigrants on welfare, in public housing, in schools, and so on. Many come here to work, but not all and not all find work. Would we mandate a law that would only allow immigrants with jobs? (Australia limits the types of workers that can enter the country based on the country's need for workers.) Obviously if "anyone can come" becomes our policy, someone would be paying a higher bill for the free benefits of being in this country.

Compassion and Hospitality

Over against all the negatives -- security, obligations, unsavory people, those who use the system, etc. -- there is the very real question of compassion. It is unavoidably selfish to sit in our comfortable houses consuming our comfortable meals with sufficient cash left over for amusement and frivolous expenditures and then complain about "those people" who just want to cross the border, get some work, and support their families or the poor from one country who need medical help or even safety that they can't get in their own. Those who have more should be more willing to share with those who have not. From this perspective it seems both un-American and certainly un-Christian to stand there with our arms folded refusing needy people access to basic necessities because they're not "legal immigrants". How does this factor into our immigration policies?

This is listed as a "hard topic" because it seems to me that it is just that. I'm not offering the answers. I'm suggesting that answers are not as easy as some seem to think. Balancing security with liberty, rights with obligations, plenty and little ... these are not easy. Christian compassion should not be a small issue as well, but neither do we have the right to demand of others that which is not ours to give. Maybe you have a good answer for this? I'm not sure I do.


Bob said...

I always come away with new insights when ever you post a subject. i wish i had your brain, that way i could play with mine, not worrying if i might drop it or lose it. ok since you covered all the bases which you are so apt to do. i came up with two observations:
1. in order to help anyone we must deal from a position of strength. if we want to feed, we must have enough food for all. if we provide health care or welfare we must have enough funds to pay for it. our country has changed significantly in that our population has expanded to the degree, that our founding fathers could never have imagined. so the american sentiment is the same, bring us your poor. but we simply cannot provide quality services, to keep up with the ever expanding needs.
2. security vs freedom: it is not enough that we are being inundated with refugees from south america and mexico, but now our boarders are being crossed by terrorist bent upon killing innocent people. we are at war with Radical Islam. this compounds the problem of immigration. if we clamp down on security to address this issue we forfeit our freedoms. but if we allow the boarders to remain open, or allow un-vetted Syrian refugees to enter our country, we risk our security. we are not dealing with peace time problems.

Stan said...

During the time after the war in Iraq when we were helping them settle their own government, a comedian cracked, "Why can't they use our Constitution? We're not using it." I feel the same way about my brain.

"We are not dealing with peacetime problems."

Now that's an interesting point. I'll have to think of it through that lens. If we were obviously at war ... you know, World War II or something ... how would we view, say, immigrants from Germany or Japan? I don't mean "How did we view them?" I mean how should we? Many Germans, for instance, were trying to escape Nazi Germany, but others would have been glad to sneak in with them to cause us harm. Given that we are not dealing with peacetime problems, how should we balance the genuine need for sanctuary with the genuine threat of danger? Interesting.

Craig said...


This ties in with my post about the narrative. I think it's safe to say that no one is actually advocating that the US do nothing and take in no refugees. What is being advocated is that we do so in a way that balances all of the things you lay out. Despite the fact that this is actually a pretty reasonable position, the narrative is that the evil right wing doesn't want to help these people at all and that these refugees must be equated to Jesus. Of course this is blatantly and demonstrably false, but it doesn't stop people from repeating it ad nauseum all over the place. Why let a little thing like Truth get in the way of a narrative that advances ones political agenda?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I have no compassion for "illegal" immigrants - they are violating the laws and adding horrible financial burdens on the rest of the nation.

I have three issues with the "legal" immigration of the so-called refugees:

1. How do we know if they are truly "refugees" and not Muslim invaders, to where what is happening in Europe will be happening here?

2. As a nation, we have so many people who are already homeless (not by choice) and in need of assistance that we virtually ignore (especially veterans), that we have no business adding more people to our welfare programs while those American citizens are still in need.

3. As Christians, we are told to FIRST help those of the Church (Gal. 6:10), and as long as we have people of the Church in need, we have no business spending our money and time helping non-believers. I have seen this happen way to often in local assemblies where they have all these "outreach ministries" to the poor or otherwise needy all the while ignoring those in their own assemblies who are in need of assistance in many ways. There are too many real believers in need for people to claim that Christians should be helping these mostly Muslim "refugees."

Stan said...

Humans do have a truth problem.

(Although I do believe there is a minority of people who actually believe we should block all those darn refugees, hunker down, and defend ourselves from the invaders. And since our society is really obsessed with the extreme minority, it could be a problem.)

Stan said...

Glenn, without even attempting to pass any judgment on your view as you've stated it, would you say that we are no longer (indeed, ought no longer to be) a nation of "give me your tired your poor ..."?

Part of my difficulty with the topic is "America" versus "Christians". As a nation, I see one set of answers. As Christians, I see another.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I agree we are no longer a nation of "give me your tired, your poor" as a free-for-all. We need to follow the laws established for new immigrants, including the need to vet them so we aren't opening our doors to criminals and terrorists.

I also agree that there are ways "Americans" should be looking at the situation vs "Christians" doing so. Christians should be Christians first and Americans second. As a Christian, I refuse to be saddled with financial burdens of non-believers as long as there are believers in need. As an American I refuse to be saddled with financial burdens of invaders as long as we have Americans who have bonafide needs that aren't being addressed.

Craig said...


I'm sure there are a few folks who say that we should keep everyone out, but the majority of what I'm seeing is more along the lines of managing and/or limiting, and/or screening people to determine who should be allowed in.

The other topic we don't see much is why aren't the other Muslim nations taking more of these refugees? One big issue is the Sunni/Shia divide.

I also think it's interesting how many people who throw out the "theocracy" canard when it comes to things like limiting abortion etc, are so quick to suggest that we make refugee and immigration policy based on their interpretation of what Jesus said.

Stan said...

Craig, I think Texas, at least, is saying "NIMBY" -- "Not In My BackYard." They don't want any of them there. More than just Texas.

Another problem (especially with Glenn's thoughts in mind) is the problem of Syrian Christian refugees. I was reading about an ongoing problem of Christians in Muslim countries (like Syria) who are fleeing Muslim persecution only to get put in Muslim refugee camps where they encounter ... Muslim persecution.

And if you're looking for consistent thinking from those who throw out Christ on one hand and throw Him back at you on the other, I think you'll be sorely disappointed. ;) Sad that it comes so often from the "Christian Left".

Craig said...

I'd have to look at what the specifics are in terms of what states are saying.

I totally agree that in the midst of all of this we have to address the issue of Muslim violence against Christians and factor that into the process.

I realize that intellectual consistency isn't a big priority for the left, but hope springs eternal.

At the risk of broad brushing an entire community, I think that it is instructive to look at the Somali community here in the Twin Cities and the numbers of youth that are being recruited to join various Muslim terror groups. Again, it's not a large percentage (and I know enough others to believe that most want nothing to do with these groups), but the fact that it is actually happening in significant enough numbers that it is a concern of law enforcement suggests that the same type of thing is likely to happen with Syrian refugees as well.

Stan said...

Hmm, interesting thought. Now, if I was as diabolical as, say, ISIS appears to be, then I might consider NOT sending any of my people in with refugees (since they'd likely get caught in background checks), but count on "radicalizing" (as the media likes to call it) the refugees they let in. Great, another factor.

Craig said...

If I was diabolical I think I'd send at least a few in as refugees. If they get through great, if they get caught it scares people and takes focus away from other means of sending people here.

But I probably spend too much time reading stuff like Tom Clancy for my own good��

Stan said...

Sure, blame it on Clancy.

Craig said...

I guess I'm not alone.

I wouldn't blame him, but he and some other writers have spun out some scenarios that have come really close to reality.