Thursday, January 26, 2017

Trump's Plans for Immigrants and Refugees Draw Mixed Reactions

President Trump is acting on his anti-immigration campaign promises. According to BBC News and CNN, on January 25th, Trump signed two executive orders boosting border patrol forces, increasing the number of immigration enforcement officers who can carry out deportations, depriving sanctuary cities of federal grant funding, and directing the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. In a move that smacks of scapegoating, Trump's executive orders also mandates that the Department of Homeland Security publish a list of crimes committed by aliens, according to Buzzfeed and the Independent.

Trump's ire also extends to refugees, which will have devastating consequences at a time when refugees are pouring out of Central America, Africa, and the Middle East. According to Reuters, Trump is expected to sign an executive order that would temporarily ban refugees from entering the U.S. and suspend visas for citizens of Syria and six other countries. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has temporarily suspended trips by staff to interview refugees in anticipation of Trump's new refugee policy, two sources told Reuters.

Some immigration-focused voices from the right were delighted. Writing at the Center for Immigration Studies, Mark Krikorian called the Trump's immigration plans "a resounding success" and was eager to see how the administration would handle "defiant sanctuary cities, greedy employers, leftist lawfare warriors, oleaginous lobbyists". In a blog post at NumbersUSA, Roy Beck observed that Trump's executive orders had addressed six out of ten goals set out in the group's "10 Steps to Fix Our Broken Immigration-Enforcement System". During the January 26th edition of Jay Sekulow Live, Jay Sekulow said that Trump's drafted plans on refugees "makes absolute sense".

In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, Samaritan's Purse president Franklin Graham did not see Trump's measures as an affront to Jesus' teachings about welcoming the stranger.
"It’s not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come, that’s not a Bible issue ... We want to love people, we want to be kind to people, we want to be considerate, but we have a country and a country should have order and there are laws that relate to immigration and I think we should follow those laws. Because of the dangers we see today in this world, we need to be very careful."
However, other conservative Christian voices frowned on Trump's plans. Groups that were pleased with Trump's reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy expressed disapproval of his plans for immigrants and refugees. For example, in a January 25th press release, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) urged Trump to continue the U.S. refugee resettlement program. The NAE called Trump's reported plans to restrict refugee admission based on religion or national origin "alarming".
"Christians and churches have been welcoming refugees for 2,000 years, and evangelicals are committed to continue this biblical mission. Thousands of U.S. evangelicals and their churches have welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees over the past 40 years through World Relief and other federally approved resettlement agencies. We don’t want to stop now,” NAE President Leith Anderson said.

News reports that the Trump administration plans to make severe cuts to the admission of refugees based on their religion or national origin are alarming. We call on President Trump to declare his support for the continuation of the U.S. refugee resettlement program, which is critical at a time when the world faces a significant refugee crisis.

"While refugees to the United States undergo rigorous screening interviews, background checks and biometrics taking 18-24 months, there have been fewer than 100,000 per year. By comparison, there are over 75 million foreign tourist, business and student visitors to the United States each year — most coming with little or no security screening. Most refugees from the Middle East are women and children who have suffered the assaults of ISIS terrorists and civil war. We have the opportunity to rescue, help and bless some of the world’s most oppressed and vulnerable families,” Anderson said."
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) also expressed disappointment in Trump's decisions on immigration. In a January 25th press release, the USCCB accused Trump of "disregard[ing] the judgment of state and local law enforcement on how best to protect their communities". Bishop Joe Vasquez, Chair of the Committee of Migration and Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, was "disheartened" by news of the border wall, which he claimed would make immigrants even more vulnerable.
"I am disheartened that the President has prioritized building a wall on our border with Mexico. This action will put immigrant lives needlessly in harm's way. Construction of such a wall will only make migrants, especially vulnerable women and children, more susceptible to traffickers and smugglers. Additionally, the construction of such a wall destabilizes the many vibrant and beautifully interconnected communities that live peacefully along the border. Instead of building walls, at this time, my brother bishops and I will continue to follow the example of Pope Francis. We will "look to build bridges between people, bridges that allow us to break down the walls of exclusion and exploitation.'"

In regards to the announcement of the planned surge in immigrant detention and deportation forces, Bishop Vasquez added:
"The announced increase in immigrant detention space and immigration enforcement activities is alarming. It will tear families apart and spark fear and panic in communities. While we respect the right of our federal government to control our borders and ensure security for all Americans, we do not believe that a large scale escalation of immigrant detention and intensive increased use of enforcement in immigrant communities is the way to achieve those goals. Instead, we remain firm in our commitment to comprehensive, compassionate, and common-sense reform. We fear that the policies announced today will make it much more difficult for the vulnerable to access protection in our country. Everyday my brother bishops and I witness the harmful effects of immigrant detention in our ministries. We experience the pain of severed families that struggle to maintain a semblance of normal family life. We see traumatized children in our schools and in our churches. The policies announced today will only further upend immigrant families."
These statements serve as reminders that conservative groups do not have a monolithic approach to immigrants and refugees. While more extreme groups among the right may smile upon Trump's executive orders, other conservative groups are calling for a more compassionate and nuanced approach. Will left-leaning activists find common ground with these latter groups and work together on immigration and refugee entry in the days ahead?

To read more, visit the following links.

Washington Post: Trump’s order to ban refugees and immigrants triggers fears across the globe

Christianity Today: Evangelical Experts Oppose Trump’s Plan to Ban Refugees

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