Editor’s Note: This blog originally appeared as part one of a series on the author’s personal blog in December 2015.
Much has happened in the world since my last post two weeks ago. A number of terrorist attacks have taken place around the world, with the most notable attack taking place in Paris by members of ISIL/ISIS. I mention these attacks specifically because of the impact they have had on migration and refugees around the world. In the United States, steps have been taken to make it more difficult for refugees from Syria and Iraq to be granted entry into the United States because it was reported that one of the Paris attackers was granted entry into France with refugee status.
This action, I believe, is indicative of the approach to immigration policy in this country; we are allowing fear to govern us and rule our policy decisions. I am not blind to terrorism and the threat posed by terrorists, but I also know that the United States already has a very strict set of guidelines that create a two-year process to vet refugees. Additionally, allowing for undocumented people in the United States to gain legal status will assist in providing us knowledge about who is in the country.
Fear of another terrorist attack is not the only form of fear present in this issue. There is also fear that our culture or our way of life will change because of an influx of new people. I can understand where some people could see this as an issue, but I don’t think that this is a valid reason to keep people who are different from us out of the country. The primary reason that people come to the U.S. is not a desire to fundamentally change every aspect of the country, but to participate in a country that we have sold as the best on earth.
One of the things that makes me most frustrated about how immigration policy and refugees are being discussed in American politics is that the people who seem to be pushing policies that are the most influenced by fear are the ones who want to appear as devout Christians who allow their faith to influence their political decisions. Capitalizing on fear, as well as refusing to help the immigrant, the poor, and the oppressed run counter to what Christianity stands for and teaches. Interestingly, these also seem to run counter to the ideals that this country was founded on.
So the question becomes, if our immigration policy shouldn’t be ruled by fear, and if what we are doing runs against ideals that we should be promoting, then what exactly should we do to reform the immigration system?
My answer: I don’t know.
I don’t know what the best policy decisions would be regarding the immigration system. I don’t know how any changes that are made could affect the country in the future. I am not a person who can give specific, educated ideas that could be put into legislation.
I don’t have specific answers, but I do have ideas.
– Current statistics show that there are roughly 11-12 million undocumented people inside the United States. There needs to be a way for them to become documented. I still think that there should be a penalty to be paid because a law was broken; however, trying to deport 11-12 million people is not realistic.
– Our current system for vetting refugees already leads to a 2 year process for people who apply for entry to the United States, complete with an extensive background check. I don’t see a need to make this more stringent. (Additionally, refusing to accept refugees is against international law.)
– Our quota system for citizenship needs to be re-evaluated. The numbers that are a part of the system right now do not reflect our needs if we want to continue growing our economy.
– Current law requires that a certain number of beds be filled in immigration detention facilities. This needs to be stopped.
– We don’t need a wall, and we should be able to look at history to see that walls don’t really do anything.
I’ve provided some examples of what I feel should be changed because I feel like that is what is expected from a blog post like this one. While I have ideas about how the system could be reformed, I don’t feel like the most important way that I can contribute to immigration reform is to provide somewhat educated, somewhat informed lists of what I think should happen. There are people whose job is to come up with policy and legislation, and it seems more important to tell those people what our values are, and how those values should help shape our policy. Bringing people together around ideas, ideals, and values is also more productive because agreement on these broader concepts leads to common ground that is harder to be moved from. People who agree on one specific policy will be broken apart if that policy is shot down; however, people who agree on ideals will not be broken apart if a policy is shot down, but will be able to come up with new ideas that are centered on their agreed values. (I also couldn’t possibly cover every issue within immigration reform on my own.)
Erik Beck is a student at Denver Seminary pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Justice and Mission. He is a Minnesota native and graduate of Bethel University (B.A. Reconciliation Studies, B.A. Third World Studies). Erik is interested in and concerned with justice issues, and blogs about different justice topics. Read more of his posts here: https://mnmohawk.wordpress.com
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.