Listen To Article

If I were you, I would have stopped paying attention a while ago. The maddening and sickening work of keeping track of the constant headlines is just too much for any sane person to handle. I would have stopped paying attention a while ago, if it weren’t my job to stand up in front of a group of curious Christians most Sundays and tell them what’s going on.

If I were you, the fatigue would have made it impossible to connect the seemingly-disparate dots of horrifying and demoralizing changes.

So if I were you, I wouldn’t know that the President already has built his wall — at least in function. He has carefully, strategically, and successfully changed enough of our country’s immigration policy that it’s hard to tell if Congress matters that much any more. If they fail to do something he’s set to do, he seems to find a way to make it happen without them.

If I were you, I wouldn’t have figured it out yet. That we are already a country that has closed the door to immigrants.

Here are some of the dots from the last year and a half:

  • The banning of travel, and immigration, for people from certain Muslim-majority countries, leaving family members devastated that they cannot reunite with their loved ones.
  • The freezing of all refugee resettlement for a period of 120 days, crippling the infrastructure (largely of non-profits) that resettles refugees. Once that 120 days was over, the resettlement goal was set at the lowest in modern history — and we won’t come close to meeting even that. Refugee arrivals have fallen 75% from the number resettled in 2016. (Interestingly, we’ve resettled ⅓ of our cap for African and Latin American refugees, less than half of Asian refugees, but we’ve surpassed the cap set for European refugees.)
  • The termination of Temporary Protected Status, which takes away long-standing legal status for hundreds of thousands of immigrants from countries like Honduras, El Salvador, and Haiti.
  • The ending of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protected young immigrants from deportation who otherwise have no legal way to live and work in the U.S. 
  • Bills in Congress have aimed to end family-based immigration visas, with President Trump’s support through using factually inaccurate stories about “chain migration.” After those bills did not pass, proposed changes to something called “public charge” would meet a similar goal. It broadly, and enormously, expands the criteria the government uses to determine if a would-be immigrant is likely to depend on government benefits, and thus denies their application. The new rules would include virtually any benefit that exists for low-income people, and also penalizes an immigrant if, for example, their U.S. citizen child has accessed benefits that they’re entitled to, like the Children’s Health Insurance Program — raising from 3% to 47% the number of immigrants denied the right to stay, or reunite, with their families.
  • The proposal in Congress to end the diversity lottery, which gives 50,000 visas per year to immigrants whose nationality is underrepresented in the U.S. (about half of which go to people from Africa). While this has not yet passed, the administration has instructed officers at foreign consulates to use more scrutiny when determining an immigrant’s admissibility, lengthening that process and increasing the overall number of denials.
  • Immigration officers are now encouraged to deny any imperfect visa application without first giving the applicant an opportunity to fix the problem. Lawyers used to be given notice that more evidence was needed, but now any inadvertent error or missing information means immediate denial of the visa — affecting nearly everyone who files any kind of form related to immigration with the government. And worse, if the applicant does not have legal status at the time of this denial, they are immediately eligible for deportation.
  • Special immigrant visas have been reduced significantly, including those reserved for the Iraqis and Afghans who served the U.S. government in war zones. Victims of violent crimes, awaiting special visas, are being deported before their visas are awarded. 
  • Haitians — none of them — are allowed to apply for low-skilled work visas. At all. Because they’re from Haiti.
  • In an attempt to punish families who’d crossed the border to exercise their legal right to seek asylum from persecution, and deter those who had not yet arrived, a policy is enacted of abducting children and deeming them “unaccompanied,” separating thousands of families with no plan for reunion. Many parents were likely coerced into signing away their legal right to seek asylum so that they might be more speedily reunited with their child.
  • Meanwhile, the definition of asylum is changed so that those seeking refuge from Domestic Violence or Gang Violence (which covers most Central America, the largest population of people who seek asylum at our borders today) no longer meet the criteria at all, and are swiftly denied.
  • Another policy has been drafted, stating that those who take more than two weeks to transit through another country in order to get to the U.S. must seek asylum in that country instead. Since it takes several weeks to traverse Mexico, this would ensure that most Central Americans would be forced to seek asylum in Mexico — a country rife with human rights issues related to asylum seekers.
  • And for the first time since the McCarthy era, a denaturalization task force has been set up, with the goal of deporting some 2,000 U.S. citizens who are suspected of “cheating” on their applications. Since those applications are notoriously long and confusing, replete with the possibility for mistakes or omissions, this has struck many naturalized citizens with panic. But it’s right in line with the President’s promise, “To start a process where we take back our country,” (said in 2017 to Fox News about possibly stripping citizenship from American-born citizens with undocumented parents).

Here’s how I would connect these dots: our president has a point-by-point plan to get rid of people who are not white. This is what the red hat really means.

Once, the disciples came to Jesus and asked why he spoke in parables. He told them it was because it fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy:

“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matthew 13:14-15)

Heal us, Lord.

 

Kate Kooyman

Kate is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who serves in the Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

30 Comments

  • June A. Huissen says:

    Thank you for spelling it out and being painfully honest.

  • Susan Van Winkle says:

    Kate, your organization (CRC Office of Social Justice) is one of the few reasons I am still in the CRC. Thank you for the hard work you do for the least of these.

  • Grace Shearer says:

    Thanks so much for this very sad update. You do good work!

  • RLG says:

    Thanks, Kate, for trying to explain what immigration into the U.S. looks like from the far Christian left. I hear Christians (or so called Christians) explain what a just and fair system looks like from a Christian evangelical perspective. Oh, we don’t like being labeled like that, a bad name for evangelicals Christians. And now, more and more, we are hearing how Christian liberals see the immigration scenario. Bias on all sides. Who’s a Christian to believe?

    • Kyle M-S says:

      RLG: can you help me understand precisely what it is about the facts that Kate lays out that makes them “liberal”? I’m willing to concede that her analysis of the facts can be defined by some as “liberal”–though I personally find such descriptions more obscuring than illuminating. But what about the very well-documented bullet points, replete with links to confirming sources, is “liberal”? I read them as verifiable fact, which are neither Left nor Right.

    • Mary H says:

      I have resisted replying for several hours but continue to be troubled by your question and by some other responses to this post.
      The President has undermined responsible, professional journalists, and so what I write may be rejected by many, yet the bullet points in the blog post are facts and supported by incontrovertible evidence. If anyone can reasonably deny them as such, please say how, why and based on what evidence.
      Instead of asking who a Christian should believe, the “right” or the “left,” begin with the words in scripture about welcoming the stranger and ministry to the poor. In this light, if the policies and actions by our government outlined in the blog post are defensible, please explain why.
      We may responsibly and respectfully disagree on political points of view for many important issues, but we have a responsibility as citizens and Christians to do our homework, to think and to act.

  • Helen Phillips says:

    Thanks for this Kate. As usual you are boldly honest.

  • George E says:

    Your bias is why we in the congregation do not let you be our source of news. Indeed, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.”

    • Kyle M-S says:

      George, I pose the same question to you as I do to RLG above: can you help me understand precisely what it is about the facts that Kate lays out that makes them “liberal”? I’m willing to concede that her analysis of the facts can be defined by some as “liberal”–though I personally find such descriptions more obscuring than illuminating. But what about the very well-documented bullet points, replete with links to confirming sources, is “liberal”? I read them as verifiable fact, which are neither Left nor Right.

    • George, I lament that you do not know the depth of integrity of the author. If you prefer to follow a man who betrays the ways of righteousness, well… May God bring people to your life who can light the darkness in your heart, mind, and soul.

  • Mimi says:

    You are right. Anyone paying attention right now is exhausted. Even so it is good to read your concise and accurate summary and reflect on what our Servant Lord would want us to do. Shed light on the darkness. Light is the only thing that prevails over it!

  • RLG says:

    Kyle, it doesn’t take more than a cursory reading of this post to see its obvious bias. Anyone reading this post would know immediately that Kate is not supportive of the present presidential administration or of the Republican party. There is no balance to this post. Someone presenting the opposite bias could quote different numbers, different facts, different bullet points, all supporting a different conclusion from that of Kate. The point I was making is that her bias is obvious and is anything but objective. Next the Office of Social Justice will be telling us how to vote. Is that their job?

    • Tom Eggebeen says:

      Thank God for her bias … the same was said of Jeremiah, and of Jesus, and of Paul, too … of course, they had a bias, a bias for the Kingdom of God, for justice and peace, for equality of hope and love, of a transcendent faith that could overcome the horrors or race, land and narrow religious practices. And, clearly, YOUR bias is clear, too. Who doesn’t have a bias? Such is life. And if we need another word for bias, how about commitment?

    • Kyle M-S says:

      Again I ask RLG: what, specifically, is it about the “bullet points” and the “links” that are biased? I’ve already ceded that you can interpret her “analysis” of this data as biased, but what is it about the “data” to which you object? You say others with a different bias could quote different numbers, but surely there are not two sets of numbers that are both objectively true? To say so would be more postmodern than orthodox Christian, to say nothing of Reformed. You can disagree with an analysis of verifiable data, but you cannot disagree with verifiable data. Analysis can be biased, but facts cannot.

      • Randy Buist says:

        When the biblical text calls for Jesus followers to protect children, and our president chooses to separate children from their parents, we are not making a conservative or liberal claim. We are stating that they way of the gospel is to stand with these children and against these actions by this administration If we are willing to agree that the kids are of utmost importance, we have honored the Christian tradition. If, on the other hand, we want to support the continued separation of children, then we betray the gospel of Jesus Christ. If this means we are being liberal, so be it. It’s being faithful that matters regardless what we are labeled. Keep up the great efforts friends.

  • Shannon Jammal-Hollemans says:

    Thanks, Kate, for this helpful piece, your expertise on this issue and pastoral perspective are refreshing at a time when there are so many opinions and so little facts going around. You are a gift to the CRCNA.

  • Tom Eggebeen says:

    Make America White Again … this is the evil song sung by so many of his supporters … it’s disconcerting enough, but even worse when realizing how many “christians” sing the same song.

  • Lynn Setsma says:

    Thank you, Kate. I appreciate your honesty and your heart for justice. Keep up the good work.

  • RLG says:

    “Make America White Again?” No bias in your last comment, is there Tom? I suppose if one side or the other quotes Scripture (such as Matthew 13) that will settle the issue. But of course, every side (both sides) are quoting the Bible. The Christian right quotes the eighth commandment, “do not steal.” They see the liberal left stealing America’s hard earned tax dollars to support those who unlawfully enter the U.S. The Bible can be interpreted to mean anything and to support anything. All I was saying is that Kate’s bias was very obvious. I almost got the impression from the article that our President is the next Hitler. She may persuade some, but I would appreciate a more objective posting.

    • Allison Troy says:

      But your bias here, RLG, is also obvious – you imply that the Christian right simply quotes Scripture, while the liberal left “steals America’s hard earned dollars.” Your set of examples shows your own bias, and it seems that the objectivity you desire is one that affirms your own point of view.

    • John Tiemstra says:

      Taxation is not theft. The Constitution provides for the federal government to institute taxes to pay for government activities. Our Lord said, “Render to Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar.” Using government funds to provide relief for refugees fleeing persecution, violence, or famine seems to me like an excellent idea,a very Christian idea, and that may be where our disagreement lies. Ours is a country of immigrants. The great majority of us have ancestral roots in other countries, and in a lot of cases, not that far back. In welcoming new immigrants, we are perpetuating the best traditions of our nation. Nothing “liberal” about it.

    • Pam says:

      RLG, this isn’t an article about theft. Or people unlawfully entering the US. It’s about allowing drastically FEWER lawful immigrants, particularly refugees. Thank you Kate, for laying out this sad, discouraging set of facts. I’ve been watching this happen all year. Here in our community we are seeing only a trickle of new arrivals. It is especially devastating for those who have family members trapped in the limbo of refugee camps, who have no path to join them here.

  • Dean Koopman says:

    Kate,
    Can you bring more clarity to an item you list in your post?
    Regarding Temporary Protected Status for Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti, these statuses were established due to nature disasters. Earthquakes in the case of El Salvador and Haiti, a hurricane in the case Honduras.
    TPS requires the Secretary of State to review and determine if the needs of the initiating event still requires assistance provided under the law. The law is written so that if no determination is made, TPS continues. The Trump administration made the required assessments and determined that the initiating events no longer warranted continued protected status.
    So my question is whether you are undermining your argument by misrepresenting the situation? Specifically, these declarations were made in 2010 (Haiti), 2005 (El Salvador) and 1999 (Honduras). Are these countries still suffering from these natural disasters eight to nearly twenty years later? Or are we simply morally disingenuous and manipulative to utilize these programs beyond their scope and without end because we lack the integrity to confront the causal issues directly?
    Shouldn’t we as Christ’s ambassador directly confront the true issues and attack the evil with truth and love where the evil is? Yes, at the border, but more directly in these countries?
    I have been reading and rereading Dr. Albert Mohler’s “The Briefing” commentary from January 30, 2017, at the height of the “Muslim Ban”. One point continues to come back to me, that the church and the state are vastly different and have vastly different roles and Divine responsibilities. We as citizens of our counties and of God’s kingdom need to understand this difference so we neither transfer our calling to serve and minister to the state, nor allow the state to impede our calling. The relevant quote follows:
    “Let’s put it this way: the church does not have the responsibility given by God to defend the nation and to establish its immigration laws. But at the same time, the state is not given the authority to tell the church to whom we can and cannot minister.”

    • Marty Wondaal says:

      These are excellent questions.

    • Allison Troy says:

      I find it troublesome to find, within many of these refutations, this ease in delineating a line with “church and state.” It is so easy to do this here, but yet, how many of this blog’s critics would proudly vote for a “pro-life” (meaning anti-abortion) politician? Is it the role of the government to preserve a life? Only an unborn life? It is disturbing to see how easily this distinction comes when we are talking about migrants and people of color. If anything, the church is called to be a prophetic witness that not only speaks out against evil, but inspires justice and mercy, as our 2000 years of Christian history demonstrate. It is a poor reading of neo-Calvinism, and of Mohler, to decide that sphere sovereignty trumps the simple call of Christ to care for Samaritans of all colors and life states, and I am unhappy to see this kind of interpretation in the faith community that shaped me. I would also say that, simply, yes: these areas will continue to suffer from these natural disasters for years and years to come. Years.

    • Randy Buist says:

      You bring up good questions. Perhaps Kate will find the time to respond. Perhaps these will be helpful… t

      The economies of Haiti and El Salvador have not recovered from their disasters of 2005 & 2010. I am uncertain of Honduras however. While these people fled here more than a decade ago, some got married and others had babies. If we believe national policy is to be held as a higher value than keeping families intact, we have serious issues of the heart.

      As for Al Mohler, remember that he is a fundamental baptist in terms of theology. Kate Kooyman is reformed in her understanding of faith and politics. While Mohler may chooses to separate his faith and politics, ultimately he holds a politic that is void of an integrated faith. In the tradition of John Calvin and Abraham Kuyper, the author is striving to be faithful to the tradition of reformed theology. She reaches for the goodness of the kingdom of God far more thoughtfully than does Mohler.

    • kate kooyman says:

      You’re right, Dean, that TPS was an imperfect solution in that it was temporary. But these countries have protracted problems that have no simple, quick solution. I’m not sure what you think it would look like to face the problems of a place like Haiti “head on” instead of a “manipulative” solution like allowing Haitians who were already here the ability to stay and work legally instead of burdening Haiti further with a forced deportation? (Is it possible to work toward hopeful solutions in Haiti, while also allowing Haitians who are here to stay legally? I think it is.) If you’ve paid attention to what’s happened in the last few years in Honduras, or in Haiti, you understand that what while the initial natural disaster may have initiated TPS, there have been subsequent issues that have exacerbated things rather than resolving them. In my view, there should have been a path to permanent legal status or citizenship for those who are here on TPS for a certain number of years. But since that’s politically unpopular, Presidents simply kept extending TPS. No president before Trump has had any interest in simply ending this humanitarian program. In my view, to end it (and upend lives, and cause threats and hardship) makes no sense, the best solution would be for Congress to pass a law that allows people to get on a path to citizenship.

      • Dean Koopman says:

        Kate,
        I like your passion for the cause.
        I’m quite aware of the struggles in Haiti. Haiti is beset with corruption, poverty and neglect and had been for decades before the earthquake struck. If you care to read what I know about Haiti, it is posted below.
        I’m not as up on El Salvador or Honduras. But I’m not callous to their plight which is similar.
        My point is that we need to deal honestly and directly with problems. We need to. Not by harping on feckless politicians, attending to current issues justified by events older than the large portions of the populace it serves or silly hashtag campaigns. WE need to by getting off our butts and truly being God’s hands and feet. I think it would be better if we went out as God calls us and didn’t either shunt it off to the government or make those in need risk their lives to get here before we give them help.
        Regarding Haiti, it was placed on my heart nearly twenty years ago by my good friend and former pastor. Though we were just a church plant we still funded his trips to Haiti twice each year and he wouldn’t come if we were not fully on board. That’s why as one of the elders of our church, we sent him to Haiti within hours of the earthquake, to assist and coordinate with the effort because he speaks Hattian Creole and interpreters were needed.
        To my shame, I have not gone to Haiti with the many mission trips that my friend has lead, but I will get there. Possibly to La Gonave island to work with Ben and Heather Hopp and the Reformed Presbyterian Church as some friends have. Maybe I will go to the Central Plateau to work with the Haitian-American Friendship Foundation as so many of my fellow congregants have. Maybe somewhere else God has ordained.
        I have celebrated the expansion of the Gospel as friends taught pastors how to preach and share the Gospel. I laughed at their excitement for the colorful ties we sent with my friend as a meager gifts for their days long walks to learn to how to lead their little flocks. There was the shared joy of women able to get married in a real wedding dress (no matter that the size was never even close) because another friend was given forty or more of them from a closing wedding dress shop and we sent them along with our blessings for their marriages. I grieved after the tragic death of OPC missionary Matt Baugh on his motorcycle in 2006 having met and prayed with him. And I’m angry just like the Haitians at the waste and theft of relief funds by the Clinton Global Initiative from a country of such profound need.
        And no, it’s no enough. But it’s real, it’s relational and it’s true.
        My apologies if this too strident.

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