“To our own very heavy burden of the defective and degenerate we are adding every year, by immigration, thousands of aliens whose presence here will result, because of their own defects and those of their offspring, in lowering the physical and mental standards of the American race.”
“You cannot rebuild your civilization with somebody else’s babies. You’ve got to keep your birth rate up, and that you need to teach your children your values. In doing so, you can grow your population, you can strengthen your culture and you can strengthen your way of life.”
Both of these quotes regard strong beliefs on immigration. The first quote is from Professor Robert D. Ward of Harvard University at the National Conference of Race Betterment in 1914. The latter is from Republican Representative Steve King in March of 2017.
The proliferation of immigration and race issues in the United States is not a new trend. Whether the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the relocation of Japanese-Americans into internment camps during WWII or Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the treatment of foreigners was always accompanied with controversy. Today, amidst the refugee crisis of which the United States is, in part, held responsible, that controversy continues. President Trump recently enacted his executive order targeting immigration in early February. ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States’ imposed a 90-day travel ban on citizens coming from the following countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Further, the order demanded a review of visas and refugee programs and suspended the U.S. Refugee Admission Program for 120 days — restricting Syrian refugees from entering the country. Though the government suspended the enforcement of the executive order in mid-February, Trump implemented a travel ban restricting the admittance of all refugees effective as of March 16.
As for the immigration ban from February, 23, 763 international students were banned from re-entry into the United States. This caused great concern among all international students studying in the United States, but the ban has since been lifted. However, the recent travel ban is a concern as well. Only students who carry citizenship from the countries listed in the ban are prohibited from re-entry into the United States.
This controversial executive order generated discussions across the nation concerning the nature of the role of government towards immigrants. Now, the government is an entity that is created when people incorporate themselves into an agreement to be governed. Following from this, the government is tasked with the role of maintaining the structure and order of a society. Regarding the current refugee crisis, there is a threat to that order and structure based on the amount that we let in. In other words, there needs to be a limit. However, how we define that limit is important. What is an appropriate number of refugees we can let in and still maintain order and structure? That depends on the amount of resources we have as a nation to accommodate the surge of newcomers. Nevertheless, this limit is often defined based on fear and racism, rather than the capacity of our nation to absorb an influx of people fleeing crisis.
Enter the Church. The Church (big C) is not confined to or reliant on the limit that the government defines. As Christians, we have an opportunity to respond in a way that is not contingent on the decisions of our government. You can adhere to political ideology and still help refugees and immigrants. Whether that takes the form of bringing them here, going there or sending resources to people who can alleviate the crisis, we are commanded to do something. As students, pray, seek discussion, get involved at your church and resist racist and fearful mentalities.