In Defense of Refugees
President Trump created a serious amount of controversy this week with his executive order on immigration. At first, I was outraged, but, like any good law student, I decided I needed to read the order itself and not base all my judgments on news outlets. After reading the order, I’m still troubled, but not necessarily for the same reasons.
Here are my thoughts on Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, the full text of which you can read here:
Immigration reform is necessary. The presence of undocumented workers and the threat of extremists using refugee status to do harm in our country are legitimate concerns and need to be addressed. But how we address them is what will set us apart in history.
The problem with Trump’s strategy is that it seems to be taking a “Ready, fire, aim” approach that has serious implications outside his intended result. Foremost among these is the idea of religious discrimination. Section 5(b) of Trump’s order states that Homeland Security can “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.”
What this does is put an effective, even if not literal, ban on Muslims coming from the countries in question. It also leaves open the possibility for widespread discrimination based on race or nationality, regardless of whether or not that person is an American citizen or a foreign national. These are blanket bans that sweep up thousands of innocent families just because of where they come from and what they believe. That cannot be acceptable to a country that claims a history built on immigration and religious freedom.
This Has Happened Before
The executive order calls to mind a time when my own ancestors were similarly discriminated against. Mormon pioneers regularly had to move from place to place here in America to avoid persecution. After leaving Ohio, they went to Missouri where they were beaten and slaughtered for being different, for being a political threat to the people who lived there. The governor of Missouri – Lilburn W. Boggs – signed an infamous extermination order, making it legal to shoot a Mormon on sight (this order wasn’t officially rescinded until 1976). Many tried to argue in defense of the Mormons, but it was to no avail. They were kicked out and fled with the clothes on their backs.
After leaving Missouri, the Mormons went to Illinois, where they were temporarily welcomed in by the citizens who lived there. They were given a swamp as their home and made it beautiful – Nauvoo, a city on a hill. But once again, as the population of Mormons grew, the local people started to get scared, the violence returned, and they had to flee.
This time, they made their way to Utah, hoping to find refuge in a territory all their own. Some of them walked in the middle of winter, barefoot, leaving those who had died buried in shallow graves along the way. But they made it to Utah, their hopes and dreams of a life without persecution carrying them along the way.
It’s Up to Us to Protect Our Constitution
I understand the need for immigration reform, but how can we, as a nation, expect the providence of Almighty God when we so unceremoniously ban people in desperate need, just because of their religion? Jesus cared for the political stranger and so should we. We must call on our government leaders to proceed with the utmost caution here, because the fulfillment of this order will have lasting implications that could open the door for other forms of discrimination conducted in the name of national security.
We have the First Amendment for a reason. No one should be kept out of this country, or prioritized for acceptance, because they belong to a particular faith. At the end of the day, there is nothing more un-American than religious persecution.