Sojourners Like Us?
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Emma Lazarus
“The greatest nations are defined by how they treat their weakest inhabitants.”
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2
This week we will take a look at an increasingly important issue in our nation and in the world. Much of how we live out our Christian faith will be a reflection of how we view this subject. The matter at hand concerns what we believe about immigrants, immigration and refugees.
We live in a day with more mass immigration than ever before in the history of mankind. The United Nations Intergovernmental Conference will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco on December 10-11, 2018. Their intent is to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. During this UN hosted event nations will be invited to sign a non-binding intergovernmental compact which will essentially make the unhindered immigration of peoples around the world a reality. Much has been written on this subject, however my desire as I deal with only the tip of the iceberg on this issue, is that what I write will help you think more clearly, to see beyond the surface so that you can make intelligent decisions. I plan to provide you with accurate information so that you can develop a mindset which will enable you to act appropriately.
As you can imagine there are many opinions on the Declaration and Compact. I have done the research for you. The actual documents can be read to further enlighten you. They are linkable for ease. See reference list at the end of this article.
Today, there are over 258 million migrants around the world who live outside their country of birth. This figure is expected to grow for a number of reasons including population growth, increasing connectivity, trade, rising inequality, demographic imbalances and climate change. Immigration is a global phenomenon, not just a Western one. It is easy to think of the migrations as east to west and south to north, but those are inaccurate assumptions. South to south migrations may actually out number the south to north migrations.
What has prompted the UN initiative? It appears to have been ignited because of the Western push-back by many populaces in Europe beginning in 2015 when almost 1.5 million refugees began to arrive in Europe. It may also be the result of growing nationalism by numerous countries including the United States, Australia, Austria, Poland and Hungary.
Immigration has become a dangerous activity over the past several years, taking the lives of over 60,000 souls. More than 1,510 migrants have died at sea so far in 2018. These numbers are adding up due to the great lengths that people are taking to skirt the legal infrastructures of countries seeking to control the inflow of refugees. Most have lost their lives in boats which sank in the Mediterranean.
While the UN is seeking to loosen up restrictions for the reception of immigrants and refugees, many countries in the West are tightening up their borders due to political pressures from within their electorates. The whispered objective of European border-reform efforts is simply to seal the borders. Several far-right electoral victories across Europe have pushed governments to crack down on both land and sea routes, as voters grow increasingly hostile to outsiders.
According to current European Union policy many people leave their homes in an attempt to improve their lives. These people are often referred to as economic migrants. If they do not have a legitimate claim to protection, national governments are obligated to ensure that they return (either voluntarily or with use of coercive measures) to their home countries, or to a country through which they have passed. These measures can be better understood by reading the European Agenda on Migration. If you put this document next to the soon to be signed Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migrationyou might discover some significant disparities. It is difficult to comprehend what is happening in this global political arena.
What is the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration? The Global Compact expresses the collective commitment of the signatory states to improve cooperation on international migration. So far so good. It consists of twenty three objectives. There are several resources listed below which provide adequate commentary both in support and in opposition to each objective.
Below are listed the objectives for the Compact. Click on links for the reasons given for being Pro Compact and for those who are opposed to the compact.
Objectives for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration: Pro Compact position
Objectives for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration: Opposed Compact Position
(1) Collect and utilize accurate and disaggregated data as a basis for evidence-based policies
(2) Minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin
(3) Provide accurate and timely information at all stages of migration
(4) Ensure that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation
(5) Enhance availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration
(6) Facilitate fair and ethical recruitment and safeguard conditions that ensure decent work
(7) Address and reduce vulnerabilities in migration
(8) Save lives and establish coordinated international efforts on missing migrants
(9) Strengthen the transnational response to the smuggling of migrants
(10) Prevent, combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration
(11) Manage borders in an integrated, secure and coordinated manner
(12) Strengthen certainty and predictability in migration procedures for appropriate screening, assessment and referral
(13) Use migration detention only as a measure of last resort and to work towards alternatives
(14) Enhance consular protection, assistance and cooperation throughout the migration cycle
(15) Provide access to basic services for migrants
(16) Empower migrants and societies to realize full inclusion and social cohesion
(17) Eliminate all forms of discrimination and promote evidence-based public discourse to shape perceptions of migration
(18) Invest in skills development and facilitate mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences
(19) Create conditions for migrants and diasporas to fully contribute to sustainable development in all countries
(20) Promote faster, safer and cheaper transfer of remittances and foster financial inclusion of migrants
(21) Cooperate in facilitating safe and dignified return and readmission, as well as sustainable reintegration
(22) Establish mechanisms for the portability of social security entitlements and earned benefits
(23) Strengthen international cooperation and global partnerships for safe, orderly and regular migration
On December 10-11 in Marrakech, Morocco 188 member states of the UN will gather to sign this international agreement. To date the United States, Australia, Austria, Poland and Hungary have declined to participate on the basis that they believe that signing such an agreement would deny each individual country the ability to determine their own immigration laws and procedures.
It will be interesting to see how national policies are altered as a result of agreeing to and signing the UN Compact. My analysis is that a significant piece of the problem is that the language being used will confuse the issues, therefore a lot of political gymnastics will ensue for powerful nations to continue to do as they are currently, in order to satisfy their electoral base. Meanwhile non-signatories will be vilified for favoring the abuse of refugees rather than participating in the UN sanctioned agreement. It seems as if a lot of “smoke and mirrors” are in play in this whole affair. There is as always, more than meets the eye. My personal opinion on this agreement is that the United Nations is seeking to designate migration as a human right. It may be a measure to collectively breakdown national boundaries. Once these boundaries are dissolved we will need a consolidated government in order to rule these boundary-less land masses. We will need a single currency to stream line taxation of people. We will need a means to enforce rule of law. It is a slippery slope — and something I’ve heard somewhere before.
I want to take a minute to outline what I believe is a biblical response towards immigrants and refugees. It seems like secular liberals have a much more compassionate position towards refugees and immigrants than the Christian community. That is how the mainstream (read: secular liberals) press, is framing the conversation. I know Christians are called to help the poor and the helpless and the foreigner. It appears that many western Christians are framing their response to the immigrant crisis by the mainstream media rather than the Bible. This is why the secular world is so perplexed by the Christian global response.
The biblical non-negotiable responses concerning refugees and immigrants:
- God respects the boundaries of men and expects us to respect those boundaries. (Num. 21:21-22)
- God expects us to obey the laws of any given nation. (Romans 3:1-8)
- God cares about the immigrants and refugees. (Lev. 19:33-34)
- God expects us to care for the needs of those who are in need. (Matthew 25:40-46)
- God expects us to deal with immigrants justly. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)
Our position is always to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is not negotiable. It is who we are as followers of Jesus Christ.
Who are our neighbors? Jesus answered that question once and for all with the story of the Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. It is time that Christians stand up and defend the rights of the poor and the needy. Does that mean welcoming every refugee who seeks asylum in our country? Not necessarily. Does it mean giving them a fair shake? I believe it does. We need to favor a system which provides a means for all who come to our country to have a fair hearing and a just decision. And while they are in the process, they should be treated with respect and dignity.
Maybe the toughest question of all in this immigration discussion is, “What can I do? I’m reading the Scripture, I’m seeing God’s heart for the victimized and the marginalized. What are some tangible things that I can do?”
First, learn about the issues related to immigration. Be informed about the public policy discussion. Be aware of the truth by getting to know some people in these immigrant communities.
Take advantage of some opportunities to serve in some immigrant communities. Work through your church or through other nonprofits so that you will have opportunities to serve, and actually get to know some people who are in these communities. That’d be a first step.
Second, once you begin to formulate your thinking about what immigration policy should be, it’s entirely appropriate to advocate for what you think ought to be done. Write to your congressperson, your state assembly or state senator, or to your county commissioner, or to whatever local government level you think is appropriate.
Third, pray. Pray that we will have an immigration policy that actually works. Pray that we will be fair to those who have waited in lines and followed immigration laws. Pray that we will not close the door to people who are increasingly desperate when they come into our country.
Click on Action link to get full look at possible Christian actions as prepared by: Dr. Scott Rae, Professor of Ethics at Talbot School of Theology
New York Declaration for Refugees and Immigrants… https://undocs.org/A/Res/71/1