This past week I was engaged by a person on Twitter who took offense to a post I shared. The post highlighted the biblical fact that God cares about all races of people and that His church will be made up of people from every tribe and nation. It went on to say we cannot lift one nation over other nations. The response was swift. A professing Christian told me:
You support illegals just waltzing in here playing dumb victims. They play the game for gain. I’ve been around these ppl. Been to El Salvador. These ppl have NO respect for our country. They’re racist and envious. The Bible says follow the law of the land. You are confused. And I can’t believe you run a church.
This response is not that far of a departure from the position I believe many Americans hold toward immigrants and immigration. We assume erroneously that the actions and attitudes of a subset are reflective and indicative of the whole. We think we’re better because we live in the United States. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your country. Lest I be accused, I am proud of my country. I volunteered to serve her and fight on her behalf. When it comes to the value of life, American lives are worth the same as the Honduran, the Guatemalan, the Mexican, the Chinese, the Turk, or the Iraqi. Because we live in the United States, we enjoy blessings these nations do not. Hence the desire and longing of millions to be a part.
You may ask why I chose to title this series, “The Demonization of Immigrants, Refugees, and Foreigners.” To demonize is to “portray as wicked or threatening.” Is there a demonization occurring today? I believe there is. The person who engaged me online used language portraying immigrants and as wicked and threatening. Mild language compared to much of what we hear and see printed every day about immigrants, refugees, and foreigners. It is difficult to watch as millions of non-native born people in this country are viewed as a step below everyone else. It is difficult to watch the same people who risk personal safety and possible imprisonment to provide a better way of life for the families treated with disdain, disrespect, and suspicion. It saddens and angers me to listen to our current administration refer to these people as “animals” and other derogatory terms in an attempt to portray them as somehow less than human.
The treatment of immigrants (documented and undocumented) and immigration policy reform are areas where I disagree with the tone, tenor, and direction of our current administration. Whether intended or not, the current administration is portraying itself as anti-immigrant, in my estimation. Steps have been taken, and threats have been issued to punish immigrants (documented and undocumented) and make their lives increasingly more difficult. Note the following:
- In July of this year, the current administration tightened restrictions on asylum seekers at America’s southern border than were believed to be too far-reaching. 1
- In July of this year, the current administration considered capping the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. in 2020 at zero; in essence, ending the Refugee Resettlement Program. No decision yet. 2
- In March 2018, the current administration ended DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA allowed undocumented children (Dreamers) who came to the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own to remain in the country while citizenship applications were processed. 3
- This past month the current administration threatened to end birthright citizenship – protection guaranteed by the 14th amendment. 4
- This past month the current administration advocated allowing migrant families to be detained longer than the previous 20-day period pending case review. 5
- This past month the current administration announced a new “public charge” rule expanding the government’s ability to reject green cards for immigrants using or deemed likely to use food stamps, housing vouchers, Medicaid, and other forms of public assistance 6. This policy affects legal immigrants – those who did everything right.
- This past month, the current administration eliminated protection that lets immigrants remain in the country and avoid deportation while they or their relatives receive life-saving medical treatments or endure other hardships. 7
- This past month, the current administration issued a confusing update to US Customs and Immigration Service policy stating “some” children of U.S. government employees and service members who live abroad may not be considered to be residing in the U.S. for the purposes of automatically acquiring citizenship. This guidance replaced the previous language saying any child born of a U.S. government official or service member abroad would automatically acquire citizenship. 8
I understand there is more involved in the above policy decisions than I have covered. I also understand security was/is a likely factor in these decisions. When taken as a whole, a portrait emerges of an administration who appears impatient with, and increasingly intolerant toward those who desire to call America home. Our words, actions, attitudes, and decisions tell the story of our life. You may say, “You’re a Christian pastor. You shouldn’t criticize the president and other government leaders. You should pray for them.” I am. I’m not. I do. To disagree with is not the same as to criticize. As a Christian, I have a fundamentally different position on this subject than does the president. To openly disagree is a freedom we enjoy that many around the world do not.
The intent of this article is to highlight the person of the immigration debate. I hope I’ve done that. There is grave danger in the use of the word “all” in discussions like this one. To say, “all immigrants are criminals” and “all immigrants and refugees are here to take and steal jobs” casts an unfair shadow on those whose motives are pure and right. Regardless of a person’s government-issued status, they are first and foremost image-bearers of God worthy of respect. If professing Christians refuse to demonstrate concern, love, compassion, and common decency to someone because they may be undocumented, we say something to them the Bible does not. We need laws. We need borders. We need a new awareness of the human being. We need to look over the walls and through the detention facility fences and see each one as a human being created in God’s image longing to live free and pursue happiness. Let’s start there.