Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trump-styeria And Immigration


Can we take a deep breath or three?

I really thought that some of the knee-jerk hysteria over the election would calm down at some point but that clearly is not the case. With Trump being elected we have entered a new period of time that is marked by hysteria, hyperbole and hypocrisy. He is pretty much the perfect President for 2017, a petty man following the administration of another petty man dealing with a largely petty culture. Lots of people are apparently in a race to see who can lower the level of public discourse to match Trump the quickest. 

Can we look somewhat dispassionately at some of the facts about this falsely labelled "Muslim ban"? 

First, it is not a "Muslim Ban". Just putting something behind a hashtag doesn't make it true. What Trump has enacted is not a #muslimban just like saying #handsupdontshoot doesn't negate the fact that his hands were not up.

The countries impacted by the ban are: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia. While it is true that these are all majority Muslim countries, they are also places where there are deep ties to terrorism or places with a great deal of political instability. If this was an actual ban on Muslims you would see Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Nigeria on the list as they are the top five countries in terms of Muslims in their population. Assuming the numbers from Wikipedia are accurate, that means that just from those five countries alone there are nearly 800,000,000 Muslims which is almost half of the total Muslim population in the world. The temporary ban covers seven countries which have a lot of people but are not the only or the largest Muslim populated nations. The ban is aimed at states that are generally agreed to be places where terrorism flourishes, and that agreement is based on actual facts even if you don't agree with the conclusions. 

Second, the "ban" is temporary, four months, during which time the administration is reviewing the vetting process for "refugees". As I show below, this is not without precedent because even as recently as 2011 under the benevolent Obama administration we enacted a similar temporary freeze on refugees from a specific, Muslim country. Many people, including the duly and lawfully elected President of the United States, think there are serious issues with our refugee/immigration programs. If you think something is broken on your car, you don't keep driving until the car stops, you take it in to have it checked out. This is based on something we call "common sense", a decidedly uncommon trait in our world today.

Third, there is nothing in the Constitution that requires the United States to take anyone from anywhere. From National Review: Refugee Madness: Trump Is Wrong, But His Liberal Critics Are Crazy

Even more ridiculous and blinkered is the suggestion that there may be something unconstitutional about refusing entry to refugees or discriminating among them on religious or other bases (a reaction that was shared at first by some Republicans, including Mike Pence, when Trump’s plan was announced in December 2015). There are plenty of moral and political arguments on these points, but foreigners have no right under our Constitution to demand entry to the United States or to challenge any reason we might have to refuse them entry, even blatant religious discrimination. Under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, Congress’s powers in this area are plenary, and the president’s powers are as broad as the Congress chooses to give him. If liberals are baffled as to why even the invocation of the historically problematic “America First” slogan by Trump is popular with almost two-thirds of the American public, they should look no further than people arguing that foreigners should be treated by the law as if they were American citizens with all the rights and protections we give Americans.

Certainly there are some aspects of the Constitution that provide protection to "people" rather than "citizens" but that doesn't mean that anyone who wants to come here is automatically extended the rights and privileges of citizenship.                                                                                         
Fourth, there are very real reasons to be concerned about the impact on our culture and our society from massive immigration. This isn't jumping at shadows or looking for the boogeyman under our beds.

Exhibit A from last August: German intelligence warns of ISIL ‘hit squads’ among refugees

German intelligence services have evidence that “hit squads” from the Islamic State terror group have infiltrated the country disguised as refugees, the deputy head of Bavaria’s spy agency told the BBC Thursday.

“We have to accept that we have hit squads and sleeper cells in Germany,” Manfred Hauser, the vice president of the Bavaria region’s intelligence gathering agency, BayLfV, told the Today program.

“We have substantial reports that among the refugees there are hit squads. There are hundreds of these reports, some from refugees themselves. We are still following up on these, and we haven’t investigated all of them fully,” said Hauser.

Exhibit B showing this is not a uniquely Trump move: The Obama Administration Stopped Processing Iraq RefugeeRequests For 6 Months In 2011

Although the Obama administration currently refuses to temporarily pause its Syrian refugee resettlement program in the United States, the State Department in 2011 stopped processing Iraq refugee requests for six months after the Federal Bureau of Investigation uncovered evidence that several dozen terrorists from Iraq had infiltrated the United States via the refugee program.

After two terrorists were discovered in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 2009, the FBI began reviewing reams of evidence taken from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that had been used against American troops in Iraq.

Read the whole article including the part about finding that "refugee" Waad Ramadan Alwan who claimed to be a persecuted refugee but who had his fingerprints on an IED discovered in Iraq that was intended to maim and kill U.S. soldiers. The Obama administration paused resttlement for six months, two months longer than Trump is proposing. Where were the hashtags and the outraged celebrities? It is almost like the hysteria is politically motivated rather than based in actual facts and reasoning. 

Exhibit C, European counties which are much smaller than the U.S. individually are having a very difficult time assimilating these "refugees" as many of them don't want to me assimilated: SWEDEN AT BREAKING POINT: Police make urgent plea for help as violent crime spirals

Officers in the city of Malmö have struggled to cope with a surge of serious crimes including dozens of attempted murders, beatings, rapes and other offences – and have now been forced to admit: “We cannot do it on our own”.

Malmö police chief Stefan Sinteus called for locals to come forward with testimonies testimonies in a bid to help police catch suspects.

In an open letter, a desperate Mr Sinteus wrote: “I can assure you that the police in Malmö are doing everything we can for suspected perpetrators to be held accountable. But we cannot do it on our own.

“We depend on you, and your witness statements, to solve these violent crimes.

“Therefore I appeal now to you: Help us.”

In many European countries, violent crime has spiked and it is directly related to "refugees" who are unemployed, un-assimilated and resentful. We are able to suppress this in America because our country is so much larger but bringing in hundreds of thousands of people, especially when we aren't sure they have been properly vetted (or even if proper vetting is possible) is clearly problematic at best. The stories are almost overwhelming and the statistics are pretty clear. For example:

In Germany something like 99%+ of "refugees" are unemployed, or about one out of every 10,000 has an actual job. Since the U.S. is already $20,000,000,000,000 in debt and millions of current citizens out of the workforce, do we really have the resources to absorb hundreds of thousands of people who likely will have extreme difficulty in finding employment, don't speak our language and will have a tough time becoming comfortable in a land that is alien to them in almost every respect? Governing is pretty much always a series of choices that are based on scarce resources. We only have so much money to go around so we need to prioritize where those funds go. I saw one statistic, one I have not confirmed but can easily believe, that it costs over ten thousand dollars to resettle one refugee. Do we have the resources to do that on a massive scale. Yes I know you can argue that we spend hundreds of billions on the military and other programs but it doesn't negate the real cost of refugee resettlement in America.

Wouldn't it make more sense and be far more economical to help these refugees from Middle Eastern, majority Muslim countries to be resettled locally in other Middle Eastern, majority Muslim countries? How much easier will it be to have them return home to Syria from Saudi Arabia or Kuwait when you can drive home rather than from the United States? Unless of course they never really intended to return home in the first place. If we are going to spend money, and I am not convinced we should, to deal with refugees, with poverty, etc. around the world, let's be smart about it. Give this brief video a watch (only six minutes but powerful)

Immigration policy and the question of refugees is a complicated, thorny mess of competing priorities. When you try to discuss the question in light of Christian faith it really gets messy. The temptation to use the coercive power of the state to carry out Kingdom priorities is ever present in a free society. As Christians we are to love all people, including our enemies. Love, compassion, justice should inform our decisions but that doesn't necessarily mean advocating for or opposing a specific policy or program from the secular government. Some may say that it is compassionate to provide people with food stamps and welfare payments. I would say, as would many other Christians, that this tends to create a dependency on the government that steals self-worth and dignity from people and uses the threat of Caesar's sword to take from some to give to others. Welfare dependency is not compassionate, it is the opposite of compassion because it enslaves people, but that doesn't stop people from claiming that reducing welfare benefits is "draconian" and "lacking compassion" and throwing out the "least of these" card. 

Likewise with immigration policy. There is simply not a position that is the only "Christian" position, the only "loving" or "compassionate" position. Simply quoting Matthew 25: 31-46 as if that is a rational argument is dumb and intellectually lazy. The same is true for clumsy appeals that take into account none of the very real concerns of a nation-state to maintain border integrity. Of course just saying "Build a wall and keep 'em all out" is not a well reasoned position either. What we need are common sense, theologically informed positions that don't rely on either fear or misplaced sentimentality. What we especially need is a recognition that the church and the government are not interchangeable and what God calls the Kingdom to do is not what God expect Caesar to do.

Trump's immigration policies, his approach to refugees, etc. is not the Christian position. Neither was Obama's. Nor were any policies from any Presidents we have had or that have been proposed by anyone who ever ran for President. The tax policies of Trump, of Obama, of W. Bush, of Bill Clinton or the proposed tax policies of people like Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or even of devout professed Christians like Mike Huckabee or Ted Cruz are not "Christian tax policies" because there simply is no such thing. There is no "Christian" position on most governmental questions. For every cut and dried issue like legalized abortion or theft, there are dozens of more complicated issues like voter ID laws or immigration or tax policy or environmental regulations get the point. 

The Kingdom priorities we have are not transferable to the unbelieving government of the world. As a Christian I am called, obligated and privilege to care for the sick and the widow and the hungry and the orphan. I am not called to use Caesar and the national policy of a secular state to accomplish a goal particularly when the issue is more complex than simply "Trump is for it so it musty be wrong". Just as I cannot say "I care about the poor because I voted for more welfare" or "I am pro-life because I voted for a Republican" neither can I say "I care about the stranger and the widow and the orphan because I opposed a four month temporary pause in immigration from seven very specifically chosen countries". 

If you think that pausing immigration and refugee resettlement from seven nations for 120 days is immoral or just bad policy, and you have done some actual research beyond re-Tweeting and liking Facebook posts, that is great. If you have studied the same question and looked at the data and agree that a temporary cessation makes sense and stricter border protections and immigration laws are in the best interest of the maximum number of people then that is great as well. What is not great is to resort of histrionics, hyperbole and hypocrisy that are based in partisan politics and claim you are just being the bigger Christian. 

I believe that there are very valid and even reasonably compassionate reasons to more strictly restrict in-coming immigration and refugee resettlement in the United States. I also think that President Trump is often wrong on his policy prescriptions, whether his "rebuild the military" rhetoric or his proposed funding mechanism for a southern border wall. What I am simply asking is that we do some research and ask some real questions before we leap onto social media to rail against something that is far more complicated than can be explained in 144 characters. Just because the world is content with sound bytes, tweets and memes it doesn't mean the church should be content with that as well.


Aussie John said...
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Aussie John said...
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Aussie John said...


How good to read a reasoned response among the cacophony of emotional, often well intentioned, but ignorant voices.