On Immigration

Categories Politics

A Brief History Lesson

So, earlier this week, I posted a pair of quotes on Facebook. It got a lot of likes, a lot of sad faces, and one or two comments.

“The Secretary of State and the Attorney General will invalidate all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States, effective today. We will not reissue visas, nor will we issue new visas, except for compelling and proven humanitarian reasons or where the national interest of our own country requires. This directive will be interpreted very strictly…”

…After years of neglect, this administration has taken a strong stand to stiffen the protection of our borders. We are increasing border controls by 50 percent. We are increasing inspections to prevent the hiring of illegal immigrants. And tonight, I announce I will sign an executive order to deny federal contracts to businesses that hire illegal immigrants.”

Now, many people posted sad faces and comments, because, how could Donald Trump do such a horrible thing? Not…so…fast….there……..paaaaaartner.
The first quote, it’s from Jimmy Carter, in 1979. The second quote? Bill Clinton, 1996. So, before you get in a tizzy about how insane DJT is, let’s look at history.

A Brief History of immigration policy in the US:

  • 1790: Naturalization Act of 1790: All free white persons of good moral character may become citizens after two years residence.
  • 1795: Naturalization Act of 1795: Residency requirement changed to five years, you must still be a free white person of good moral character.
  • 1798: Naturalization Act of 1798: Residency requirement changed to fourteen years, you must still be a free white person of good moral character.
  • 1802: Naturalization Act of 1802:  Naturalization processed opened to “those of African descent”
  • 1868: Fourteenth Amendment: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
  • 1870: The law is broadened to make it easier for African Americas to be naturalized. Asian immigrants were excluded from naturalization, but were allowed to live in the US.
  • 1882: Chinese Exclusion Act: Limited (to an extreme) the ability of Chinese immigrants to come to the US.
  • 1882: Hardly enforceable, there was a law banning “lunatics” and carriers of infections diseases.
  • 1907: A “Gentlemen’s Agreement” between Japan and the US limited immigration because of an influx of people from the island country of Japan.
  • 1917: Immigration Act of 1917: A literacy requirement is added to the citizenship test.
  • 1921: Emergency Quota Act: Because of increased immigration during this time, a federal law set a quota for the maximum number of immigrants coming into the country annually.
  • 1923: United States vs. Bhagat Singh Thind: Classified Indians as “non-white” and allowed the US government to completely strip the citizenship of naturalized Indians (go us *rolls eyes*)
  • 1924: Immigration Act of 1924: Reduced the number of European immigrants eligible to come to the U.S.
  • 1932: During the Great Depression, Hoover puts his boot on the throat of immigration.
  • 1933: Mexican Repatriation: We forcibly removed an estimated 500,000 to 2,000,000 Mexicans, mostly citizens, and sent them back to Mexico
  • 1942: We send thousands of Japanese Americans to relocation camps during WWII, citizen and non-citizen alike.
  • 1943: Repeal of Chinese Exclusion Act.
  • 1952: McCarran-Walter Act: Removed racial distinctions from the U.S. immigration code.
  • 1965: Hart-Celler Act: Abolished national-origin quotas. Set limits of 120,000 annual immigrants from the Western hemisphere, 170,000 immigrants from the Eastern hemisphere.
  • 1979: Jimmy Carter, after hostage crisis, suspends all travel to/from Iran and invalidates all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the U.S.
  • 1980: Refugee Act of 1980: Set target quota of 50,000 refugees annually. Lowered the ceiling for immigrants to 270,000 annually.
  • 1986: Immigration Reform and Control Act: Creates penalties for emplyers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
  • 1990: Immigration Act of 1990: Modified and expanded Hart-Celler, allowing 700,000 immigrants per year.
  • 2005: Real ID Act: Changed Visa limits, tightened restriction on asylum applications, removed restrictions on border fence building.
  • 2011: Pres. Obama stealthily bans the processing of all immigrants / refugees from Iran after a failure in the vetting process is exposed.
  • 2017: In January, Obama ended the policy of accepting Cuban refugees who made it to the USA while fleeing their brutal communist dictatorship.
  • 2017: TBD – But it ain’t looking good.

That’s a brief history of our ‘official’ immigration laws and acts, not including statements from politicians on both sides, especially during campaigns (i.e. Bill Clinton). Campaign rhetoric notwithstanding, I’ve highlighted black the ones that I consider especially damaging. So, there’s a history of us not being kind to people. You definitely can’t look at DJT and say he’s the devil incarnate, lest you ignore hundreds of lawmakers before him, up to and including Presidents Obama and Clinton.

My Thoughts as a Christian

So, first let me share an anecdote. I was in Target last week, I bought a six pack of beer (uh-oh….dirty sinner alert). I went through a line and the woman at the register was a devout Muslim. She wouldn’t even touch the alcohol. Do you want to know how that made me feel? Convicted. I was absolutely in-no-way offended by what she did. We had a great conversation. We respected each other. She seemed like an amazing lady. Honestly, I felt lukewarm in my own faith. Don’t get me wrong. I really, really, really don’t drink much at all. A six pack is a 1-2 month supply at my house. But, her convictions convicted me.

I’ve had friends from every socioeconomic and ethnic background you could imagine, and you know what I’ve learned: there is no mold or formula that determines “goodness.” I’ve met great people from every corner of the earth, I’ve befriended people who have nothing in common with me, and I’ve grown through every one of those experiences. On the other side of that coin, there are also people of every socioeconomic and ethnic background that are just going to be total buttcanoes (patent pending on that PG13 insult btw)…and I typically don’t associate with them.

I think it’s safe to say that, if you were to generalize, you’d find the following:

  • 1-2% of the world population: So ridiculously positive you want to punch them in the face (think Chris Traeger from Parks & Rec)
  • 10-15% of the world population: Generally, really good people. Almost always positive. Sometimes annoyingly so. I *may* fall in this category.
  • 75-80% of the world population: Normal people, trying to carve out a life for themselves. They have good days, they have bad days. Usually, they’re good people.
  • 10-15% of the world population: Pretty negative people. If it rained flawless diamonds, they’d complain about the scratches said diamonds left on their piece of crap Kia.
  • 1% of the world population: These are the buttcanoes. You should probably avoid them. They really do have nothing but malice in their hearts. These are the guys that end up on the news.

Note, I never once included race, religion, wealth, class, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or other factor in my assessment….because none of that matters in this argument. People are people in this context. I would like to pretend that I could say *people are people* in regard to all issues, but lets face it, our systems are pretty crappy for people from many different backgrounds right now.

Like many other Christians, I have been surprised at the sheer number of brothers and sisters of mine who place nationalism and a perceived sense of security over the ability to evangelize and minister to a lost and hurting people. It just blows my mind that we’re more than willing to send Americans to these incredibly dangerous countries to proselytize the people there…but when given the opportunity to minister to the thousands of them that make it over here, we’re very…’meh’ about it. We really don’t want *them* in our churches or in our neighborhood, lest they end up being radicalized and/or crazy. Statistically, the odds of that happening are nil. The media just explodes when it does happen, because fear-mongering does, in fact, equal good ratings.

I think that all Christians share a personal responsibility to love all people, and to help those in our lives who are less fortunate. As someone who has spent time in the country widely considered to be the poorest country in the world, I see the pain, I see the need for help. I do believe that in following the great commandment and the great commission, it is our personal responsibility to see to it that we love all people. The ultimate end of that, is that we love people, and we also introduce them to Christ. Not the Christ of the pseudo-evangelical church that is slamming doors closed in peoples’ faces, but the real Christ, the Christ of the Gospels, that heals the sicks, feeds the hungry, finds the lost. Every follower of Christ, from new believers, to pastors, deacons, even the Pope, has a responsibility to care for those less fortunate that are put in their lives.

P.S. Sorry you lukewarm Christians, especially misprioritized Pastors, the great commission does actually include proselytizing. As pastors, our primary job is to bring new people into church, introduce them to Christ, and create disciples. Stop pretending it isn’t.

That being said….

My Thoughts as a Citizen

As I talk about charity I’m explicitly referring to the job of the individual and the church. If anyone expects charity from our statist government….well, why? Historically that’s never happened, see the above list of the horrible crap we’ve done.. I do, however, believe that sovereign nations need systems in place to have some level of control over who enters and leaves their countries. That’s not a new, secular idea.

For reference, read half of the book of Joshua, half of the book is God allotting lands to the different tribes based on geographical borders. Then, look at the following passage:

Numbers 20:14-21
Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, saying: “
This is what your brother Israel says: You know about all the hardships that have come on us. Our ancestors went down into Egypt, and we lived there many years. The Egyptians mistreated us and our ancestors, but when we cried out to the Lord, he heard our cry and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. “Now we are here at Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory. Please let us pass through your country. We will not go through any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will travel along the King’s Highway and not turn to the right or to the left until we have passed through your territory.” But Edom answered: “You may not pass through here; if you try, we will march out and attack you with the sword.” The Israelites replied: “We will go along the main road, and if we or our livestock drink any of your water, we will pay for it. We only want to pass through on foot—nothing else.” Again they answered: “You may not pass through.” Then Edom came out against them with a large and powerful army. Since Edom refused to let them go through their territory, Israel turned away from them. 

I’m not saying what Edom did is right or wrong, I’m pointing out that even Moses, the guy who, with God’s help, parted a sea and turned a staff into a serpent, still respected national boundaries.

What I am *not* advocating:

First, I don’t think the wall is a great idea. It will stop some illegal immigration but I don’t think it’s practically economically or socially viable. Not only that, but let’s face it, the wall seriously makes us look like a bunch of isolationist turds right now.

Second, I think an outright ban on people, even if temporary, is a horrible idea. Mark my words, twenty years from now, there will be a story on the news after an extremist *does* attack us… It will come out during the fact-finding investigation that something horrific happened during this ban (i.e. an airstrike, a child whose parents were killed while they were stranded because of this ban, something along those lines).  Then, we’ll look back and realize why this ban was, even in practicality, a horrible idea. Also, if the wall makes us look bad, this ban *really* makes us look like a bunch of buttcanoes right now.

Third, I’m not advocating open borders, that’s dangerous. Each nation’s sovereignty is marked by a boundary and it is up to the rulers of a nation to set rules in regards to how that boundary is protected. It’s been that way for thousands of years. I don’t see a full-on attack from another sovereign nation anytime soon (looking at you, Canada) but there have to be some systems in place.

Side note: For a group of people so adamant about seeking the total and absolute separation of church and state, we seem shockingly surprised when the state doesn’t act like we’d expect the church to act.

What I *am* advocating:

First, I think the path to citizenship shouldn’t be a horrible, horrible burden. I think we should make it *somewhat* easier to become a citizen of the USA. We have many citizens here not worthy of being called citizens, and we have many people from abroad who want to chance to prove themselves. I believe that we, as a country, should always be open to new people and new ideas, especially people who want to come here to be producers. We shouldn’t be open to people who just want to take advantage of the systems we have in place, but we should absolutely be open to those who want to better themselves and this country. And yes, I say that knowing that there are many, many, many citizens that just want to take advantage of the systems we have in place. If you think the policy of expecting people to be producers is harsh, know that it’s exactly what one has to be in order to become a naturalized citizen in Canada, the apparent mecca for people that no longer like the USA.

Second, I am a firm believer that anyone here who is not seeking political asylum from a hyper-oppressive government should follow a legal path to citizenship. “Undocumented immigrant” is one of the most idiotic, way-too-politically correct terms I’ve ever heard. Can I carry a firearm on my person, then claim to the officer that I’m an ‘undocumented CCW-holder?” No, I’m illegally carrying a concealed weapon, and congratulations, I’m now a felon. If I’m in a car accident and I find out the other driver doesn’t have a license, how will I react? I probably won’t say, “Well, it’s OK, you’re just an undocumented driver. I’m sure this will work out.” Like it or not, no matter how harsh it sounds, this is the truth.
If you are breaking a law then:

Illegal! (He shoots he scores).

Let’s not pretend that by using puppies and rainbows terminology we can overlook that one simple fact.

Third, I made that point about people seeking asylum because I really do believe we should welcome those who are being actively oppressed with open arms. And for those of you who are shouting, ‘Hey, they’re sending over a bunch of males, make them go fight.’ We’ve did that: In Afghanistan, in Iran, in many countries, and what happened? 20-30 years later, those people that we trained turned on us. We have always been a country that maintains a principle of welcoming those seeking asylum from oppressive regimes, and from a humanitarian standpoint, I’m all for that. But let’s not forget that there’s a significant difference between fleeing an oppressive regime and wanting a slightly better job.

In Conclusion

Cliff-notes: Our immigration policies have been total crap, and will continue to be total crap. It’s our job to not be total butts to the people in our lives. A sovereign nation still has responsibilities.