"They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." Donald Trump, 6/16/2015
"I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims. The office is called VOICE - Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media and silenced by special interests." Donald Trump, 2/27/2017
"Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes." When the "Know-Nothings get control it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country, where they make no pretense of loving liberty - to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy. Abraham Lincoln, 8/24/1855.
Abraham Lincoln could not have known about the "progress in degeneracy" of our day. And though the particular groups he was speaking of may have changed somewhat (though not completely), the "degeneracy" is still progressing. We have elected as our president a man who freely preaches racism and xenophobia in a manner no president has in my lifetime and who has attempted to block the entry of immigrants in various ways.
And when in his speech to congress Donald Trump advocated an office to particularly discriminate against immigrants as a criminal group, his groupies, of course were elated. But sadly the media - whom he had already labeled as "fake news" and "the enemy of the American people" - simply spoke of his speech as "more presidential." No one seemed to give a ____ about his making xenophobia a national priority and creating an office to promote it!
Why aren't we angry? Why aren't American Christians speaking out? Why aren't our political leaders of both parties speaking out? I am a child of immigrants; most Americans (all the white ones) are, unless they are immigrants themselves. Why don't these pronouncements bother us?
My mother came to this country as a child with her parents and older siblings, from Austria. Her parents - my grandparents - got here just before the First World War. In a few years America would be at war with their native land. Were they refugees, fleeing war? I don't know, but I suspect so.
My father's family came to America from England in the 1600's. I suspect they were Puritans, as they settled in Massachusetts and almost all had biblical names. (There were also names like, Thankful, Mercy and Deliverance.) As Puritans they would have been fleeing their homeland for religious reasons. And, of course, they would have landed on our shores without official clearance from the residents who had preceded them thousands of years earlier.
So what right have I as a child of immigrants to cheer the closing of our borders and the stigmatizing of immigrants?
As a follower of Jesus, how should I look at this question? I believe that a look at the biblical story shows a long history of immigrants and refugees
We could go back to the first book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis. There we find the story of Abraham, called by God to leave his home in Ur and go to the land of Canaan. And when there he fled to Egypt because of famine. The rest of the Book is filled with tales of flight by Abraham and his son Isaac, then Jacob, then Joseph - the whole family of Israel. And then there is the story of Ruth, a refugee from her homeland to Israel. And on and on. The Old Testament is one continuous narrative of flight and migration.
And then we read in the Gospel of Matthew of Jesus, the Son of God, who himself became a refugee from the murderous campaign of Herod the Great.
" ... an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt and stay there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child to destroy him.' So Joseph got up and took the child and his mother by night and took off for Egypt, and he stayed there until Herod's death." Matthew 2:13-15
But it's not only the stories about immigrants in the Bible that we need to look at - it's the commands. Over and over in the Old Testament we find commands aimed at the Israelites regarding the "stranger" or alien (some translations use the word "immigrant.") A few:
"You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Exodus 22:20; 23:9
"When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." Leviticus 19:33, 34
Over and over the prophets rant against Israel's oppression of "the stranger" along with her other sins that brought judgment on the nation.
And when Jesus foretells His return as the Son of Man to judge the nations, it is not their sexual misbehavior or their violence which make up the criteria for judgment, but their treatment or mistreatment of certain groups: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner. Matthew 25:31-46
Add to all this, the fact that we who follow Jesus Christ are addressed as "aliens and strangers" (1 Peter 1:1; 2:11). While we may or may not be citizens of this land," our citizenship is in Heaven, from where we are eagerly expecting a Savior - the Lord Jesus Christ!" (Philippians 3:20) How can we not identify with those others who are also "aliens and strangers?"
So we who are both Americans and followers of Jesus, should be appalled at the "progress in degeneracy" our nation is following. Things will probably get worse before they get better. We need to speak out and do our part to welcome "the stranger" even though we may be going against official policy.
"We must obey God rather than man." Acts 5:29