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Doing Justice in the face of the President’s immigration ban

Doing Justice in the face of the President’s immigration ban

Whether your church uses the Revised Common Lectionary or the Book of Common Prayer Lectionary, yesterday morning, you heard the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-2. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” We also heard from the prophet Micah, “what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (6:8) The Psalm called us to “keep an oath, even to their hurt,” (15:4), and Paul reminded us to not try and boast in our own strength, “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.” (I Corinthians 1:27-29)

These messages are particularly poignant in light of the executive order issued by President Trump on Friday, banning nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US. Public outcry has been widespread and has come from a range of groups, including conservative ones, such as Focus on Family. The president of that group opposed the ban, telling the Atlantic that “if we can verify [refugees] sincerity, and their story, as we’ve done for centuries, I think it would be wise to be open to a healthy immigration policy that allows people to flee.” Presiding Bishop Curry spoke out against earlier directives about immigration on the 25th, saying, “The refugees who enter the United States do so after experiencing violence and persecution undeserved of any human being, and they come to the U.S. with hopes to build new lives.” Many religious leaders of all faiths have spoken out vehemently against the ban.

The bitter irony of the executive order being issued on January 27th, the international day of remembrance of the Holocaust, has not gone unnoticed. Parallels were drawn between this decision and the US turning away Jewish refugees during WWII. A striking example is the MS St. Louis, a ship that was turned back by the US in 1939, even though officials knew by then what that meant for her passengers, Jewish Refugees. A Twitter account was set up to honor the 254 people from the St. Louis who were later murdered in the Holocaust.

The executive order has not just affected refugees, however. Legal residents with green cards have been turned away at the border or detained at the airport when they attempted to return from trips. Students and others, even with multiple entry visas, have found themselves in the same plight. People with dual citizenship cannot enter the country if one of their passports is from one of the seven named countries, regardless of where their second passport was issued. A 5 year-old boy was detained for hours at Dulles airport, separated from his mother, when he returned to the country with another family member (they have since been reunited). This is because of Sec. 3(c) of the executive order, which states “I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order.” People who left the country for holidays, to go to weddings, for research trips… they have found themselves unexpectedly denied reentry, regardless of their visa or permanent resident status.

While the executive order does not explicitly target Muslims, all seven of the named “countries of concern “(Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) are predominantly Muslim. Furthermore, exceptions to the ban on immigrants and refugees may be made on certain conditions, “including when the person is a religious minority in his country of nationality facing religious persecution” (Sec. 5, subsec. e). Of course, in these countries, that essentially means Christians. However, the Bible is clear on whom we should regard as our neighbors, and whom we should treat with love and care (for example, the Parable of the Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37).

Over the weekend, protests have blossomed at airports across the country, with lawyers filing habeas corpus writs and more, sitting on the floor by charging stations, or at temporary tables.

Lawyers at JFK airport
Lawyers at JFK airport

The ACLU and several other organizations have filed suits on behalf of those detained, resulting in four federal courts issuing orders against it (New York, Alexandria, Seattle, and Boston). Initially, customs officials refused to heed the judge’s order in New York, but it appears that they are now abiding by the ruling. Furthermore, in response to the protests, the White House has been attempting to tweak the executive order. John Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security, released the following statement today: “Accordingly, absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in our case-by-case determinations.” In other words, lawful permanent residents will not necessarily be granted entry, they will simply have a better chance.

This executive order is the very injustice we have been called as Christians to fight. Jesus commanded us to love one another (John 13:34). He has called us to care for those in need, “‘I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'” (Matt. 25:43-45). We must take care of the “leastof these,” as we are called to do. We must heed the message of today’s readings: to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)

All Bible verses from NRSV translation


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Prof Christopher Seitz

I should add, I never said I ‘feared’ the police in Canada. I respect entirely the work they do, including the tough customs folks. I have been detained on occasion due to paperwork issues and they have been firm but cordial. Canada targets the immigrants they want and run a tight ship. It helps that Canada is 10% the population of the USA, but is also is a larger country geographically.

Prof Christopher Seitz

I work in Toronto as Research Professor, presently supervising 9 PhD students.

Prof Christopher Seitz

I forgot Canada. If I overstay my work permit 1 day the police are at my door.

Jay Croft

If you’re now living in France, why fear Canadian police?

Prof Christopher Seitz

Having lived and worked in Scotland, Germany and now France; and having stood in endless lines and dealt with mountains of paperwork necessary to be resident legally, I have yet to see the hard data.

I gather that on average over 300K pass through our borders as immigrants/green card holders, and that 300 were detained. Less than 1%.

Were any of these sent back to the countries on Obama’s 7 nation list?

Things are ratcheted up and people are angry. I sometimes wonder if it is because US citizens don’t travel enough internationally or because we believe the USA is simply not a nation like other nations.

Helen Kromm

The above article easily explains the significant differences between the Obama action in 2011 and the recent Trump action. There is no similarity or comparison.

David Allen

First off, Obama had nothing to do with this. It is Trump’s list.

3, 30, 300 or 300,000, that isn’t the point. It’s 300 the first weekend. Folks have been turned around and put on flights out of the US, but I haven’t seen whether it was to any countries on TRUMP’S list of seven. And four federal judges in different states have put the kibo on the expulsions for now. And the acting federal AG has been fired because she directed the justice department not to defend the executive order.

But this has separated families nationwide. Here in Seattle, four members of one family are here and three members were en route, scheduled to arrive tomorrow. Trump would send them back to Syria, even though they have been through due process and approved for entry. You seem insensitive to what this means to 3rd world immigrants, comparing it to your privileged 1st world inconvenience. Some of these folks have worked for years to get approval. Others have saved for years to pay the costs. Now that money has been used up and they aren’t being allowed to enter.

David Allen

You might want to go back and do your research on “the list” again. It was not Obama’s list, it was the US Congress’ list. It is a list in a bi-partisan bill that President Obama signed into law in DEC 2015. It was the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act, and it was attached to an omnibus spending bill.

You can read about what that Act implemented on the second half of this US State Dept webpage;

In a nut shell, it altered who was eligible to enter the US without a visa. Passport holding citizens from 38 countries could visit the US without a visa. But if they had recently visited the seven countries on the list, they were not eligible for the program to enter the US without a visa.

Moving on.

Prof Christopher Seitz

1. The 7 countries were the ones inherited from Obama’s list. This is not in doubt. There are Muslim dense countries like Indonesia, India and Turkey not on the list, and others like UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt have commended the action.
2. It is now being reported the numbers detained are in the 100s.
3. Can you point to the source that indicates how many were not detained only but returned to these 7 countries? I haven’t seen this figure.

John Chilton

I’m glad to see your true colors. You seem to in the same basket as Stand Firm and Anglican Mainstream, taking positions to the right of, say, Southern Baptists. (No disrespect to Southern Baptists who are showing more humanity than many of their evangelical brethren.) Sad.

1. This is something a useful idiot would say. As Giuliani admitted, the EO was designed to have the appearance of passing scrutiny as based on reason rather than bias and animus towards Muslims. So naturally the list was lifted from an Obama-era list drawn for a different purpose, a specific threat that was (past tense) addressed.

2. Trump talking point. Just not true. “Mr. Trump posted on Twitter that only 109 people were detained or denied entry into the United States after his order, but during a news briefing at the Customs and Border Protection agency’s headquarters on Tuesday, officials said that 721 people had been denied boarding for the United States after it began enforcing the travel ban.”

(3. I can’t parse your statement, so unable to reply.)

SL Forsburg

Here’s the link to the statement by Bishop James R Mathes (San Diego)

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