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This week, an appeals court decided that Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” plan could continue. This is awful, harmful, and against our values.

I get that you “disagree,” but can I level with you? I’ve had this conversation a lot of times. I’m not sure we actually disagree — I think you just might just be under-informed.

No one is “for” illegal immigration.
I’ve never heard anyone say, “The solution to this is to have no thoughtful system at all.” Immigrant advocates are not fighting for no laws, or for fewer laws — we are for better laws. We’re for laws that respond to the actual situations that we are facing. We’re for laws that make sense, that are efficient, that are effective. We are for laws that uphold fundamental values that I’m guessing you’re for: human dignity, economic vitality, individual liberty, responsible use of our tax dollars, protecting life.

If you’re for “the legal way,” then start resisting the President.
The President is following a calculated, step-by-step plan to erode and side-step the laws we have. We need Congress to create a sensible, modern, effective system. If you want to a system that allows those who have a good reason to be here (to work, to join family, to be safe from violence) to actually be here legally, a system that allows U.S. authorities to know who is here, that works efficiently and fairly, that dismisses those who should not be here, then your bone to pick is not with liberals like me. Go call your Republican member of Congress and ask them to do something about the President’s dismantling of our legal immigration system. Tell them they’re forgetting the real goal, which is not to keep everyone out — it’s to fix our crappy system. Tell them to go back to time when there was a “Gang of Eight” that was at least attempting to do the work of law-making. Or better yet, remind them of the Reagan era.

The laws we have now are bad. For conservatives.
Not just bad for liberals with bleeding hearts. They’re bad for employers, for police officers, for farmers, for doctors. They’re bad for millionaires who want to make more money, and for pastors who want to grow their churches. They’re bad for lawyers who are trying to follow the law to the letter, for persecuted Christians, for babies — in and out of the womb.

When you picture “migrants,” you’re doing it wrong.
We’re no longer talking about single young men. That’s so 2016. Today it’s families, women, children. Trump wants you to picture “MS-13 thugs,” which is pure racism. Picture Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

Refugees aren’t “deserving” and asylum-seekers “undeserving.”
They’re the same thing. An asylum seeker has the same story, same criteria, as a refugee. The difference is timing. A refugee went through the “system” of fact-checking and vetting first, and then they traveled to their new country. An asylum seeker desperately shows up at a border, and needs to then go through the system. (A system we already have. Which is stringent and difficult, already.) An asylum seeker / refugee is not just a desperate immigrant. You can be desperate — for food, for a home — but you are not a refugee. A refugee is someone who is fleeing a well-founded (they have to prove it!) fear of persecution (not just fear of discomfort, or mistreatment, or no future) that is specifically based on race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or membership in a specific social group. (Oh, and if your life is threatened by your spouse or boyfriend? By the drug cartel that’s taken over your community? This administration says you don’t qualify.)

“Remain in Mexico” is cruel, and we have laws against it.
After the U.S. (and other countries) turned away a boat full of Jews who ended up back in Europe, and died in the Holocaust, our nation joined others in a something of a pact, set by the United Nations and upheld by U.S. law. It says that we do not turn away “a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”  But “Remain in Mexico” does just this. It says that desperate families will be held at bay until we have time to deal with them. Of course, U.S. leaders are working hard to ensure we’ll never have time to deal with them. The backlog is mind-boggling, and purposefully created so that folks will change their minds. Many people seeking asylum find it hard to calculate which is worse: being without resources in an increasingly crowded border town, where crime is on the rise (desperate people make great victims), or going back to the situations they fled in the first place. Many of those who intended to come “the legal way” are thus forced to cross illegally.

Yes. You can disagree, and still be a Christian.
We do need to agree that there are basic tenets of the Christian faith at play here: hospitality, human dignity, truthfulness. If we’re having a “Christian” conversation, it needs to be more shaped by these values than by values like affluence, physical safety, power. But I think there are absolutely ways to have the same values, and come to a different conclusions than mine about the role of government, about the best way to spend tax dollars, about the policies that will address root-causes. But let’s be sure to have that conversation.

Please. Stop Reading Breitbart.
I am weary of arguing with ideas that are based in propaganda. When I turn on Fox News or listen to right-wing radio, I start to understand what’s shaping the push-back I get when I talk about the harms of policies like “Remain in Mexico.” Honestly, it scares me. The church desperately must get a better filter. I’m more convinced than ever that it is Christians who are today’s best ally to the white supremacist agenda. This cannot be our legacy.

So let’s argue. But please, let’s start by telling the truth.

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

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.

12 Comments

  • Helen P says:

    I would suggest everyone read, “While Six Million Died’” about the world (INCLUDING the US) turning its back on those fleeing Nazi atrocities.
    We were complicit in Hitler’s “final solution” and wonder how we will be judged on this current era by future generations.

  • Debra Rienstra says:

    Keep insisting on the truth, Kate. Stay brave. Thank you for your courage. Praying for you and for a new day of justice and hope.

  • Jan Zuidema says:

    Amen, Amen, and Amen!

  • Robert otte says:

    Thanks, Kate, for speaking the truth and doing so powerfully.

  • Ann says:

    You are brave Kate. RHE kind of brave 🙂

    • Randy Buist says:

      oh yeah she is! And to your point — maybe this needs to become the hashtag going forward #RHEkindofbrave

  • Marty Wondaal says:

    Rev. Kooyman,

    I’m choosing to not respond to your post today. I, too, would like to have a debate about immigration. But not with you. Your post clearly states that those who disagree with you are ignorant, bigoted, cruel, and dishonest. I don’t think that leaves a lot of room for discussion. Productive arguments require a certain level of maturity which you are not displaying.

    I would, however, like to point out an encouraging trend pertinent to one of your recent posts (“I don’t want a hero”, Feb. 22, 2018). In recent shootings, people have begun rushing the shooter, and thereby saving lives. These people have rightly been lauded as heroes. If this trend continues, and the media acknowledges the heroic acts, I believe that potential shooters will be discouraged from acting out their depravity. This will make your husband’s job safer.

    • Mero says:

      I agree with you. It’s sad to be called names by the left because of a different opinion but it’s even more difficult to understand when your Christian brothers and sisters do the same.

  • Grace Shearer says:

    Thanks again, Kate for your insights on this issue. I had the pleasure yesterday of meeting a high school senior whose mother came here from Guatemala after being continually abused by her husband. Hearing the problems and putting a face with the “border problem,” affirmed the need for our Church to support those seeking asylum. For the record, after 41/2 years in the US, this young man is the Valedictorian of his class and is going on to WMU to pursue a clinical degree and a physicians assistant program after that. We need to hear more positive stories to combat the “fake news” we hear from the White House.

  • James Schaap says:

    Powerfully and convincingly done! Thanks.

  • Jame Brink says:

    Thank you, Kate. The truth will set us free and I appreciate the light you have provided. May the Lord bless you and keep you in your work.

  • Susan says:

    Thank you for this excellent article.
    It should be read in every church on Sunday morning. It is especially appropriate for Mother’s Day, as so many refugees are mothers.
    We need to fix our laws to take care of these desperate people.

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