“Why should I care about the refugee ban?” Good question. Let me provide some background before giving three responses.
Background on the refugee ban
We are talking about the chaotic impact of the executive order signed by President Trump two weeks ago entitled, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist entry into the United States.” Here is what the order does:
- Places a ban on all immigrant and non-immigrant entry for 90 days for nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (Section 3c).
- Suspends all refugees from entering the country for a period of 120 days (Section 5a).
- Places priority after 120 days on refugees facing religious-based persecution “provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” (Section 5b)
- Places an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees (Section 5c)
- Reduces the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. in 2017 to 50,000. 32,000 have already entered so the President will only allow in another 18,000 this year (Section 5d)
Response number one: What does the GOSPEL have to say about the refugee ban?
First, we are a pluralistic nation. We the people. While that may not have included all people when written, we are a nation that pledges ‘liberty and justice for all.’ We do not impose a religious test upon our leaders. President Trump does not need to follow the Bible. Christ followers do.
Our allegiance as citizens of heaven should first be to the Kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of man. Our obligation is to follow Jesus, not a particular person or party. Many evangelicals oppose the ban as running contrary to the good news of the gospel.
The Bible contains 92 verses on immigrants
Second, the Bible contains 92 verses directly addressing immigrants and refugees. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is a book of God’s people on the move, often as immigrants or refugees. The people of Israel were a nation of refugees fleeing Egypt. Naomi fled her home because of famine and took refuge in Moab. She lost her husband and sons before returning to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law Ruth. Ruth was an unwelcome immigrant, but through her offspring came King David (Ruth 4:16) and Jesus (Mt. 1:5). Jesus was a refugee fleeing Herod’s order to slaughter children (Mt. 2:13).
Third, every Christ follower is a refugee. Our true home is heaven. This earth welcomes us for a brief period of time. As refugees we should identify with our immigrant and refugee neighbors. We should welcome the stranger. My friend Matt Soerrens wrote the book Welcoming the Stranger. Matt also co-wrote the book Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis. He provided a helpful interview to the Gospel Coalition which I highly recommend. Matt challenges the church to not sit on the sidelines. He cites research that only one in five evangelical churches have ever given a message on immigration or refugees. As he says,
If we outsource our discipleship on this topic to talk radio or Facebook, we risk missing out on a divinely orchestrated opportunity both to stand with the persecuted church and also to live out the Great Commission. Matt Soerrens.
Response number two: What does JUSTICE have to say about the refugee ban?
I have never understood how people can separate justice from law and lawyers. I won’t. Many law suits have challenged the ban which on Wednesday was still temporarily blocked. Here are the legal issues.
Most courts jumped in to stop implementation of the ban because it applied on its face to lawful permanent residents (green card holders) and current visa holders. Several of these individuals were in fact banned from initial entry into the country. Lawyers flocked to airports to file habeas corpus petitions demanding to know the basis for detentions or entry refusal. These were successful. Without question the executive order is unconstitutional as applied to this class of individuals violating the lawful right to travel.
The acting attorney general stepped in to halt enforcement largely for this reason. The now famous court in Washington did the same. While the President fired the acting attorney general, the State Department and Homeland Security immediately indicated they would not seek enforcement against those with lawful entry. However, the order itself has not been amended and this remains one of the key points in the pending litigation in Washington and the 9th Circuit.
The remaining arguments are more difficult to win. While the states should win on this week’s appeal the issue in a TRO is very different than the hearing which will be held within the next two weeks. The States of Washington and Minnesota are arguing three basic points: 1. They can bring this suit (standing); 2. They can challenge the authority of the president; and 3. The action violates the establishment clause, due process or equal protection.
Likely Court action on the refugee ban.
The state’s likely have standing. They argue economic impact in the University system, sales revenue from tourism, and employment tax revenue. In the Obama challenge to DAPA Texas overcame the standing issue simply on a driver’s license fee, so this is likely to prevail.
Honestly the state’s other arguments are precedent setting. The president has broad power given by congress to limit non-naturalized citizen entry into the country. Safety is certainly a valid reason for limiting. While a ban of this size has never been imposed and the states argue it is a veiled Muslim ban violating the establishment clause, due process and equal protection, they will face a steep battle. The courts seem willing to review an executive order contrary to the arguments of the government, but that does not equate to overturning the executive action.
On the law, the government has the stronger argument. But it is clear from the 20 briefs filed against the order by states, major businesses, law professors and advocacy groups that the policy is disfavored. Only two groups filed in support of the government – no officials, no businesses, no professors. The inability of the government to point to any domestic terrorism from the banned countries along with the President’s Muslim rhetoric will be the center of the States’ argument. But whether the order is a “de facto” Muslim ban is another matter. The President’s court rhetoric is also harmful. To his credit he has chosen a highly competent judge to replace Justice Scalia, but even Judge Gorsuch calls Trumps attacks on the judiciary demoralizing. I think Judge Gorsuch correctly recognizes the danger to the democratic process when a president attacks a co-equal branch of the government.
Response number three: What INITIATIVE should be taken in regard to the refugee ban?
We are a nation of immigrants and have always been a welcoming place of refuge. The Mother of Exiles stands in New York Harbor calling, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Our heart is a heart of liberty and freedom. We should better understand the current vetting of refugees. Know the reality that most refugees are women and children and many come to be reunited with current families in America. We should know that 43% are Christian – the highest percentage of any faith.
As people of faith we should talk about these issues in and out of the pulpit. We should take initiative to love our neighbor:
- Sign this petition created by our friends at World Relief.
- Join others peacefully protesting Congressional Leaders Offices.
- Use this tool to send a message to the President and your Members of Congress.
- Write an op-ed to your local newspaper.
- Minister to refugees and immigrants on our doorstep. The great commission is here. Don’t miss the opportunity. Part of that opportunity is meeting legal needs. Reach out to us for help. Establish a legal ministry in your church or community.