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Taking Care Of Refugees Is A Moral Duty

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Taking Care Of Refugees Is A Moral Duty

Refugee Policies

President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order halting the resettlement of refugees in America and banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries has raised concern not only among liberals, civil libertarians, and jurists. It has also led a group of prominent evangelical Christian leaders to remonstrate publicly with the president who rode to office in large part on the votes of their flocks.

More than 500 of the nation’s most prominent evangelical pastors, authors, and other worthies signed a letter asking Trump to reconsider the order. The letter, published in The Washington Post this week as a full page ad, reminded the president of the Bible’s story of the Good Samaritan, in which “Jesus makes it clear that our ‘neighbor’ includes the stranger and anyone fleeing persecution and violence, regardless of their faith or country.”

The letter added that “compassion and security can co-exist,” yet while Americans quarrel about policy, innocent people die. “For the persecuted and suffering every day matters, every delay is a crushing blow to hope.”

It’s heartening, amid the wasteland of cynicism that our politics has become, to see church leaders going out on a limb, challenging not only Trump but all Christians in our body politic to attend to a central call of their faith — to serve the suffering — even though it involves sacrifice and risk.

The clergy are looking at the big picture. Many are involved in the web of agencies across the nation doing the important work of settling refugees, and they see the dimensions of the current crisis that are being missed by many Americans: We are in the midst of the largest global migration upheaval since World War II. At least 60 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced from their native countries, according to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, a nonprofit group that has been aiding refugees for more than a century.

So, it’s not a great time for America, long a beacon to the world’s oppressed, to close its doors.

The headline-grabbing portions of Trump’s order banned Syrians altogether, singled out seven predominantly Muslim countries and temporarily halted all resettlement for four months. But Trump also halved the number of refugees that the U.S. will allow into the country in fiscal 2017, from 110,000 to 50,000. Nearly 30,000 have already arrived since October, so the door really is shutting. That decision, perhaps even more than the portions of his order facing court challenges, could cripple the network of agencies that have been helping resettle the world’s displaced people for generations. Indeed, some could be forced to cut staff or shut down.

Resettlement work is labor- and time-intensive. It’s social work, largely, with case managers helping refugees move into apartments, get training and find jobs, enroll children in school, and learn English. Refugees arrive in their host cities often with little more than official documents stuffed in a plastic bag.

Refugees aren’t immigrants in the typical sense. They don’t leave their countries just to seek better economic prospects. Under a 1980 U.S. law, refugees must prove they have been persecuted or have reason to fear persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or association with a particular social group. Essentially, refugees must prove they are fleeing for their lives.

There is a strain of ethnic nationalism in American politics that does not care about the plight of the world’s refugees and intends to limit immigration to the U.S., legal and undocumented alike, only pretending to differentiate between the two. Trump came to power as the avatar of this ideology.

Opponents of immigration offer all sorts of bogus critiques of refugee resettlement. They accuse social services agencies of using refugees to greedily get federal funding; they argue our refugee policies are Cold War relics, no longer needed, and that in any case they don’t aid the most urgent cases.

Here’s the statistic that ought to make us all pause: Fewer than 0.1 percent of the world’s displaced people — yes, those seen on the news floating precariously toward European shores and trudging for miles with their children strapped to their backs — are ever resettled through refugee networks. According to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, most live marginal lives in urban areas as unrecognized residents, while many others languish for years in primitive and unsafe camps.

That sheds damning light on Trump’s policy. Amid incredible human suffering, the U.S. president has deemed that we should do less, not more.

IMAGE: Nizar al-Qassab, an Iraqi Christian refugee from Mosul, sees his children off at Beirut international airport ahead of their travel to the United States, Lebanon February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Mary Sanchez

Mary Sanchez has spent years covering immigration, schools, and other volatile beats for The Kansas City Star. She is now an editorial columnist for the Star, where she continues to offer insightful commentary on immigration, culture, and politics.

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  1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth February 12, 2017

    It might be appropriate given Trump, the GOP, and many ordinary Trump supporters’ behavior to put a heavy canvass over the Statue of Liberty to remedy the contradiction that symbol is supposed to stand for.
    No longer are Christian values adhered to by an overwhelming number of Americans who are only card-carrying believers.

    And while we’re at it, the GOP should commission a sign be made and hung over her with the words —- “Steve Bannon, Trump, and the GOP Suggest Y’all Turn Back, Unless You Meet The Racialist/Religious ‘Ideal’ —Have A Good Journey Back From Whence You Came”.

    1. Independent1 February 13, 2017

      All good ideas. The majority of today’s Republicans seem to have totally lost sight of what America has stood for for over 200 years until they’ve started their white spremacist onslaught of trying to turn America against welcoming the oppressed from other nations around the world. Instead of America being ‘the land of the brave and the free’, they/re trying to turn American into ‘the land of cowards and the weak minded.’

      1. mike February 14, 2017

        Bravo Sierra!

        1. Independent1 February 14, 2017

          Sorry lowlife, but the GOP’s actions speak for themselves!!

          Close all the borders to anyone who doesn’t look like you (that maybe some kind of terrorist even when he or she is 2 years old.

          Build a nonsensical wall to keep out those ‘big bad hombres’!!

          Setup all those ‘America First’ trade deals which will actually screw the American consumer just so all those big bad competitors in other countries can’t ‘steal away’ your company’s business!!

          Play ‘Gestapo Goebel’ and go around rounding up all those big bad illegal aliens that are the basis of the American economy and have 1/10th the crime rate of native-born Americans because they’re supposedly destroying the country when in fact they’re driving the American economy by doing work Americans won’t do at any cost which is creating more than 10 million American jobs!!

          And on and on and on!!

          You and your right-wing mindlessly ignorant right-wing trolls are nothing but whimpering cowards who are afraid to live in the real world and are trying to build the equivalent of North Korea here in America!!!

          1. mike February 14, 2017

            Thanks for the good laugh!
            Your Trump Derangement continues.

          2. Independent1 February 14, 2017

            Here’s an excerpt from an article about how a juvenile named Chaffetz is focusing on investigating a cartoon character rather than a president who has unprecedented ties to an enemy and countless conflicts of interest:

            While Trump scandals mount, Chaffetz decides to investigate… a cartoon character

            Chaffetz thought Clinton’s use of a private email server
            threatened national security. But over the weekend, Trump proved more brazen: He plotted his response to North Korea’s latest missile test from the main dining area of his Mar-a-Lago Club. Club members posted photos on Facebook of Trump and Japan’s Shinzo Abe discussing the matter and poring over documents in proximity to waiters, club members and guests.

            In this open-air situation room, Trump spoke by mobile phone and aides used their cellphone flashlights to illuminate papers — not the textbook way to handle sensitive information. One club member posted photos online of the nuclear “football” and its minder.

            Scenes such as this one highlight the need for some adult oversight of the new administration. Its travel ban has been shot down in court. The president has been attacking Nordstrom and reincarnating Frederick Douglass. His press secretary has been making up what presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway calls “alternative facts,” and counselor
            Conway has herself been counseled after pitching Ivanka Trump’s fashion line on TV.


            And you wonder why many of us have a fixation with a president who is essentially has the mentality of a 2 year-old??

          3. mike February 14, 2017

            Keep living in your world of fantasy.
            Trump is still fulfilling all his promises. Direction of country has gone from the twenties under Obama to the high thirties and forties under Trump. Stock Market has jumped since November to record highs. Business comes first! The Social warriors are gone.
            What a silly little person you continue to be.

          4. Independent1 February 14, 2017

            Talk about being clueless!!

            The crash is coming! Hope you’re wearing a helmet!!!

          5. mike February 14, 2017


          6. Independent1 February 14, 2017

            And the downfall is starting!!

            A CNN News Alert!!

            The Senate’s second-ranking Republican and other GOP senators are calling for an investigation into connections between President Donald Trump and Russia, and want former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to testify.

          7. mike February 14, 2017

            Your delusional thoughts continue.

          8. Independent1 February 14, 2017

            Hope you have that helmet on tight and be sure to keep those puppet strings tight too.

            The skies starting to fall for Trump!!

          9. Independent1 February 14, 2017

            And you’re pretty blind if you can’t see what Trump is doing behind the scenes with being President – a clear example is this safari to his club in Florida with Abe where he traipsed around from one golf club he owns to another. If you don’t think that the Trump organization will be sending Yuge bills to our government for this latest fiasco, you’re dumber than a rock.

            All Trump is doing with presidency aside from creating one economic fiasco after another, is TRUMPING UP BUSINESS FOR TRUMP’S BUSINESSES!!!!!!!!

          10. mike February 14, 2017

            Keep the silly rhetoric going it just shows how delusional you continue to be with your boogeyman scenario behind every corner.

          11. Independent1 February 14, 2017

            And exactly what did you and your juvenile friends do for 8 years under Obama but constantly fabricate reality by claiming all Obama did was play golf when in fact he played less than half the golf of Presidents like Eisenhower and several other Republicans.

            And claimed he was taking too much vacation when he took less than half the vacation of any Republican that’s been in office over the past 100 years. And not even 1/4 the vacations that GWB took.

            Talk about being silly!! You juveniles acted like 2 year-olds for over 8 years!!!!!

          12. Independent1 February 14, 2017

            And I’m being silly about Trump promoting Trump an I??

            See what I just got in the mail from the Trump Team:

            Get your Official Inauguration Seal Hat today and save 30%.

            From $40 to $28.


            Team Trump

            Still trying to make a buck from inauguration paraphernalia!!!!

          13. Independent1 February 14, 2017

            And you know full well, that if Trump had been Obama, and had chosen to spend millions of taxpayer dollars for Air Force One and staying in a hotel he owns and purposely going from one golf club he owns to another; while virtually any other president would have used Camp David for this retreat with Abe; Republicans would be up in arms!! And we wouldn’t be hearing the end of this wasteful spending for years!!!

            Where is your and other Republicans’ outrage over this fiasco???

          14. mike February 14, 2017

            At this point the only fiasco I see is in your mind.
            Here’s some real history of Camp David.
            More silliness on your part.

          15. Independent1 February 14, 2017

            Talk about silliness! You’re nothing more than Donald Trump’s puppet!! Does he ever let you off the strings???

          16. mike February 14, 2017

            Silliness is all yours.
            Love your hate! Shows how crazy you have become.

          17. Independent1 February 14, 2017

            Right!! Bush used Camp David 150 times!! Obama didn’t use it much because he spent more money himself and put on much bigger social events at the White House instead!!

            That’s no excuse for Trump taking Abe to one of HIS HOTELS and forcing him TO PLAY GOLF IN SEVERAL OF HIS COURSES!!


            Charging donors more than 3 times what he charged himself when he was paying for his campaign!!!

            You’re so clueless you’re always willing to let Trump even put words into your mouth while he’s pulling all the strings to your puppet face!!!!!

          18. Independent1 February 14, 2017

            Realism scares you to the point of giddiness!! How cute!!

          19. mike February 14, 2017

            No, only you idiots see a boogeyman around every corner. A better name for you should be Henny Penny.

          20. Independent1 February 14, 2017

            Of course you don’t see boogeymen, because it’s right-wingers who are the boogeymen. boogeymen don’t recognize themselves.

            It’s only sane people who don’t have their heads up their rear ends who can see the danger being posed by Trump and his illicit henchmen.

            And we have every right to be alarmed, ONLY ONE Republican president in office since 1900 has gotten beyond his first year in office without starting a recession or a depression; and that was George H. W. Bush!!! And he got to all of 18 months before a recession started!!!.

            It only took Hoover 8 months to start the Great Depression that destroyed millions of peoples’ lives.

            And we now have that Republican jinx in spades with right-wingers controlling everything; SO YOU CAN BET YOUR LIFE THAT TRUMP WON’T GET THROUGH 2017 WITHOUT A RECESSION OR DEPRESSION STARTING!!!

            And if that’s not a boogeyman I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS!!!!

  2. Dominick Vila February 12, 2017

    Accepting refugees escaping war, and political or religious persecution, is an integral part of our history. Rejecting families, especially children, escaping the mayhem in Syria is immoral and cowardly.

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    2. mike February 14, 2017

      Much like obama’s immoral decision to let hundred of thousands of Syrians to die at the hands of Assad.

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