Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Current Immigration Crisis

Representative Sam Graves from the Sixth District of Missouri is my U.S. Congressman. To keep up with his ideas and work in the House, I get his weekly email called “Straight Talk with Sam.”
Rep. Graves’s July 7 email article was titled, “Enforce U.S. Law to Secure Our Borders.” The article begins with an attack on the President. Sam writes,
Today, Missourians and people around the country are witnessing one of the most aggressive attempts to expand executive power in history. President Obama would prefer to go around Congress to enact his agenda.
The first sentence, however, is highly questionable, and the second sentence seems to be patently false.
The end of last month I heard the President say, and emphasize, that he would like to work with Congress. “I don’t prefer taking administrative action. I’d rather see permanent fixes to the issue we face. Certainly that’s true on immigration. I’ve made that clear multiple times,” the President said.
Why should we assume that Rep. Graves is correct about what the President prefers when we have the President’s own clear statement about the matter?
Rep. Graves is certainly right in pointing out that there is a current humanitarian crisis caused by tens of thousands of “unaccompanied alien children” who have crossed into the U.S. illegally in recent months.
There are highly conflicting opinions, however, about what has caused this immigration crisis and what to do about it.
Rep. Graves declares, “The reason we are witnessing the surge along our southwestern border is because the President and his Administration have refused to enforce existing immigration laws. Instead he has implemented policies, which have not passed Congress, that encourage more illegal immigration.”
Again, the Congressman’s statements are quite problematic.
During each of President Obama’s years in office, the number of undocumented (illegal) aliens who have been deported has been far more than the number deported during each of the years President Bush (W) was in office.
True, concessions were made by President Obama for children who had been brought in by parents who came without documentation. And it is true that such concessions did not have the approval of Congress.
But they were approved by the Senate, so it wasn’t exactly the President acting on his own.
A major part of the current immigration crisis has been caused by the Republican-controlled House, with members like Rep. Graves, who have refused, and who continue refusing, to act for immigration reform.
Rep. Graves is requesting “an explicit public commitment from the President that he will not extend legal status to newly arriving illegal aliens–regardless of age.”
To the consternation of some people, this seems to be what the President is going to do.
A week before Rep. Graves’ email, it was publicly announced that the President was trying to get a 2008 law changed in order to make it possible for unaccompanied children to be sent back to their home countries more quickly.
Most of the children who have sought refuge in the U.S. have been living in terrible conditions—otherwise they would not have risked trying to get into the U.S. No doubt many of them will be killed, injured, or raped if they are forced back into their country of origin.
Seeking to provide for so many needy children in this country is clearly a problem. But isn’t indiscriminately sending them back too callous and too lacking in compassion?
In 1980 alone, about 125,000 Cubans came to the U.S. and found refuge here. Can’t more be done to help the children coming to this country now?


  1. It would appear that Sam Graves has deleted from the Ten Commandments the one about not bearing false witness. But, then, while our right-wing legislators want the Ten Commandments in every courthouse, they don't really think the commandments have any moral bearing on politics.

    Humanists don't have any problem viewing the children coming into the U.S. as a humanitarian and a refugee issue. I would think that, for Christians, one additional question would also be whether and, if so, how much the biblical emphases on treating strangers and aliens well and on receiving vulnerable children apply in this situation.

    1. World Relief is mission arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, and has a major focus on serving the immigrants to our land and in other lands, including promotion of comprehensive immigration reform in the US.
      One of there mottos is "Welcoming the Stranger". While there is a Biblical mandate for serving refugees and asylees and other immigrants in both Testaments, use of the word "Stranger" has issues, because (much like the word "justice) has variant meanings - I remember growing up with the phrase "Stranger Danger".

    2. Anton, thanks for your perceptive comments.

      On this issue, as on many others, as a Christian I am troubled by the fact that many humanists seem to be more compassionate than perhaps most conservative Christians. The latter's position certainly seems to be formed more by political considerations than allegiance to the teachings of Jesus, or the Bible as a whole.

  2. I just now saw a good about about this issue by E. J. Dionne, Jr., of the Washington Post. The link is http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ej-dionne-republicans-are-bordering-on-heartless/2014/07/13/cc152306-092e-11e4-8a6a-19355c7e870a_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions

  3. Big problems which need to be addressed with comprehensive immigration reform. The borders are but one of the issues. But there are very different visions of what US immigration should be, and not much trust by either pole of the other. With the growing polarity, I do not see much chance for any needed change. Trust is the foundation of consensus - that seems to be missing. My guess is that when something goes very awry, civilian militias will begin to form, forcing a police action on the citizenry, and possibly marshal law. We do need good immigration (including for refugees), and good immigration policy.

  4. I much appreciate the regular comments by Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson. Here is what he wrote about today's article:

    "You have raised the right question, Leroy. More blockage at our borders will not prevent these little ones from trying to escape desperate situations.

    "The Republican Congress has blocked every initiative of President Obama."

  5. I wonder how the people of Lebanon or Jordan feel about our American reaction to refugee children. Other countries are shouldering massive burdens to care for desperate people fleeing horrendous conditions. Meanwhile America is looking for ways to slam the door in the face of refugee children. This is beyond "bordering on heartless."

    A while back I suspect I played a role in getting my pastor to request that everyone reading scripture use the NRSV so that he could count on matching his sermon to the text. I was assigned to read Psalm 14:1, "Fools say in their hearts, 'There is no God.'" Well, this verse has always bothered me, for it reinforces a most unfortunate attitude towards atheists. So I went looking for a more reasonable version, which I finally found in the Jewish Publications Society's translation. If memory serves me correctly (my copy is AWOL at the moment), that version says, "The fool says in his heart, God does not care." This version lays down a marker for believers as well as nonbelievers. The ungodly uproar against these refugee children makes me think of this verse.

    For those who would like a quote I can look up, here is the NRSV in Proverbs 22:22-23, "Do not rob the poor because they are poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate; for the Lord pleads their cause and despoils of life those who despoil them." These are the children of God we are talking about. As I recall, hardening his heart did not work so well for Pharaoh. So why do we think it will work so well for us?

  6. Thinking Friend Truett Baker, formerly from Missouri and now in Arizona, sent the following comments:

    "My state, Arizona, is at the heart of the newest immigration crisis involving children. The overriding problem here is the Federal governments failure to secure the borders.

    "We have to have laws involving the movement of people across international boundaries to protect our citizens and our way of life. Now we are facing the consequences of ignoring those laws and Arizona is being labeled inhumaine for trying to deal with the problems caused by our Federal government and all congress can do is blame the President and the other party.

    "It is difficult to find a solution midst the lies and political posturing of our Washington leader and many of our state leaders. If we keep the children it will only encourage more illegal immigration.

    "As harsh as it may seem, the children must be sent back. That will be a shortterm solution unless Congress wakes up and does its part in protecting the borders.

    "Arizona leaders have crowed that Arizona will secure the borders unless the Feds do their job, but Arizona doesn't have the funds to do it and leaders are making this a political football as with so many other issues.

    "That's my take on this sorry mess!"

    1. Truett, thanks for taking the time to write about your "take" on the current immigration crisis. It is certainly a difficult problem, especially for Arizona and Texas.

      But what the U.S. has been doing in trying to temporarily house and care for the massive number of children who have come to the south borders of this country is not breaking the law. In fact, most of what is being done is because of a law that was signed by President Bush in 2008.

      The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 has the commendable purpose of countering the evil of human trafficking. It stipulates that people seeking to enter this country from countries other than Mexico or Canada can remain in the U.S. until their circumstances are investigated.

      Even though it might not have been the intended consequence of that 2008 bill--and even though now there is considerable desire for some to change that bill--almost all of the children who have caused the current immigration crisis are from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Thus, they fall under the provisions of the 2008 bill and are being treated accordingly by the federal government.

      Personally, I think the William Wilberforce bill is a good one, and I hope it will be implemented rather than scrapped, as some now want to do.