This essay is a starting point for discussion about a God-centered approach to immigration policy, based upon full appreciation of both the benefits and risks of accepting immigrants into our nation.
The Immigration Acts of 2016 and 2019 have severely impacted our town of Saco, Maine and neighboring Kennebunkport. Our local high school, facing a declining student population, benefited from the $1.2 million per annum in tuition from 40 students from China each year. In 2016 when J1 visas were frozen, no foreign students could attend. The school had to lay off five teachers.
Similar impacts have been experienced at “Funtown,” our popular amusement park, and at luxury Inns in nearby Kennebunkport. Both have faced severe workforce shortages due to the 2018 cap on H2B (short-term non-immigrant) visas.
Statewide, as of 2018, there were 47,000 immigrants comprising 4% of the population in Maine. Africans from Somalia, Sudan, and Congo have been placed in Portland by immigration services. Forty languages are spoken in the schools in Portland.
The Africans are filling positions in healthcare in group homes that few local people will fill. Because I work in that field, I have come to know many immigrants. The Africans apply skills in housekeeping and personal care, inherited, partly, from work in past colonial economies. They possess traditional African values and values from Christian and Muslim backgrounds that employers in the service industries regard as assets.
Of course, along with these benefits, there are serious negative impacts to consider, and the state of Maine is far from the only locale affected.
There are legitimate concerns throughout the United States about crime, drug trafficking, violence, and human trafficking — especially around the nation’s southern border. In many areas, massive immigration has caused strains on social services such as schools and health care.
And finally, there are dramatic humanitarian issues arising at border crossings. CNN reported that during the month of February there was an influx of almost 100,000 illegal refugees at our nation’s southern border. In early March, US Customs and Border Control reported 4,200 unaccompanied children (minor) illegal refugees in detention.
Questions to Consider
Is there a framework of shared values and priorities that can be applied in rethinking our basic approach to immigration policy that might achieve better outcomes for all parties?
What are the perspectives of a parental God about the migration from the south with families fleeing for safety and prosperity on the one hand, and potential increase in criminal activity on the other?
If God were to write immigration policy considering all its dimensions, what might the policy look like?
Might immigration pressures at the borders of European and American Christian Democracies correspond to some extent to reparation obligations from the colonial era?
Reverend Moon spoke about the world’s major cultural spheres merging into one centering on the Christian ethic. How do growing immigration trends play into that vision?
Please share your thoughts below.
Carol and Jim raised the topic of US aid to help developing countries. There are both governmental and non-governmental programs that are doing just that. Jim Edgerly pointed out that the amount of US funding available to support these efforts is not adequate. I want to add to the disussion the effects that global companies are having on developing nations. Survival is at the bottom of Maslow’s Hieracrchy of Needs. Essential to survival is food. How food has been acquired, domesticated, modified and marketed from 10,000 years ago to the present day has had an enormous impact on culture and the global economy. Until the 1980s, plants and animal domesitication was done locally and naturally. Birds ate and excreted seeds from the choicest berry plants. Grazing animals ate and excreted the best grasses. In both cases, the spreading and fertilizing of superior plants natually led to better produce. Humans appeared… Read more »
This is a follow-up to an earlier comment about the impact retiring baby boomers are having on the work force. I ran across an article from the Census Bureau that predicts, based on current birthrates and longer lifespans, that older people will outnumber people under 18 for the first time by 2034. Women are averaging 1.7 children now which is below the 2.1 needed to replace the population.
The article explains the services needed to take care of the elderly and the budget. But who is going to fill the positions of low paying elder care jobs?
An area that I would like to learn more about, is the national security issues regarding immigration. In our Higher Purpose framework, we consider the big picture, a humanitarian perspective on migration, identifying common values and the merging of culture through accepting immigrants and addressing the issues that motivated them to abandon their homes. In addition to addressing the US role in international efforts, just as important is the national concern about securing borders against drug and human trafficking. Also, what is the impact of the numbers of immigrants on the future of the country. Regarding that issue, I go along with the view that the next generation is too small to replace retiring baby boomers and immigration is the only solution to fill vacancies and sustain social security and medicare. I just got on it. I would hate to lose it! https://tinyurl.com/ForbesImmigration The drug and human trafficking issues are… Read more »
Thank you all for your thoughtful contributions to this issue. I agree with Gordon that each of the five questions are worthy of their own threads. Thank you Kate for your observation of people seeking equal opportunity. That is especcially poignant after experiences like the ones we shared together with Arab, Israeli and American yourth. I hope that this general discussion will spin off more specific conversations. I would like to add two observations based on fairly recent experiences of my own. First, our local Rotary Club (70 members) has a sister club in Quito Ecuador. Both clubs raised funds in our respective states for a project in Quito. Our local funds were matched by our corresponding districts. The total we raised was matched by Rotary International. The combined total was matched by the Bank of Spain. Altogether, we raised several million dollars. Why did the Bank of Spain end… Read more »
The Rotary Club – Bank of Spain story and the projects that were supported is inspiring to hear about. I wonder if “foreign aid” could become something that shareholders require of the companies they own shares in. A few million dollars is not significant to Morgan Stanley, or Apple Computer, or Novartis, but that amount used as a matching fund can have a massive, long term welfare impact if invested in PRIVATE projects in a country like Guatemala. This is not immigration policy, but it is a new framework for moving scarce resources to create opportunities that might contribute to stem migration flows.
Great suggestion. Global corporations do engage in social issues, of course. On a large scale they typically focus on one area for purposes of efficiency and oversight. They also adopt policies that support social issues.that don’t involve direct contributions of course, the program decisions of the MLB and NFL for example. What happened in Ecuador that made the training program possible was a medical doctor introduced a bill that required businesses with more than 50 employees to hire people with disabilities to make up 17% of their workforce. The government doesn’t have the resources to enforce it, nor is the statute a high priority. But the major companies got the message and are cooperating voluntarily. Note that Ecuador is very strong Catholic country, like most of Latin America. There was a stigma against people with disabilities and their families. The thought was that there must be something wrong with the… Read more »
The five questions are five conversation starters, interrelated but each worthy of its own thread. I believe that a consensus could be easily reached among American citizens as a whole, but that our government, which is now controlled by political parties and their donors, will not allow that consensus–proclaimed by the declaration of independence–to arise. The consensus would be on four points: secure borders, a legal path for normal immigration, asylum for those whose lives are threatened, and reform of the failed state that could not create a safe home for them. God is pained by the broken state that causes people to suffer or denies them equal opportunity. Divine Principle speaks of how God’s heart was broken by the “Fall,” and we can see some of that pain through the immigration crisis. “Comprehensive legislation” is a political term used by party leaders to hide the wishlists of their donors… Read more »
It seems to me that migration is the attempt of humanity to achieve equality of opportunity. If there is very little opportunity or hope in the home nation, they seek better opportunities–and that requires going to other nations. The other way to improve opportunity is to export businesses, education and development to those “low hope” nations. Migration has several pluses–not only a highly incentivized workforce, but new exchanges of information and connection. For instance, if there is an earthquake or flood or tsunami somewhere, and you know someone whose family is there, or who may be living there for a time period, you are much more concerned about that situation. Migration also becomes a source of foreign aid–the biggest income, in every developing country, comes from the money sent home from workers who’ve sought better opportunity in the more developed nations. I think there are several ethical ways to reduce… Read more »
Hi Kate – Thanks for all of these interesting points. From 1983 to 2000 I spent a lot of time in doing economic development work in developing countries. Most of the time, my client was either The World Bank or USAID. I was quite impressed with the motivation, thoughtfulness and the impact of USAID projects. The U.S. is very good at providing foreign aid. However, it is a low priority program (inadeqate funding) and it has second class standing within the U.S. Department of State. I agree with you that an important part of addressing our immigration crisis has to do with continuing to improve local economic, political and legal conditions. This is very challenging work in environments of scarcity, corruption and authoritarianism. This effort should to be given higher standing and priority within the federal government. There are hundreds of NGO’s in the U.S. that are excellent at providing… Read more »
Immigration is a complex issue. The way I think about it is to ask and try to answer some basic questions first and then to prioritize them. The first is does the US need immigration at all and why? My answer and I think the objective reality is yes. Without immigration, we are not replacing our population. We also need temporary labor for our farms and permanent or on a regular basis for jobs in food processing, restaurant work and manual labor of all kinds. We also need high skilled labor in elected industries. The next set of questions are not so easy.Certainly the US and any sovereign nation has the right and the responsibility to set the terms of its immigration. If we choose to prioritize reduction of crime and the illicit drug trade we face several challenges. First, how do you sort the legal trade from illicit trade?… Read more »
Rob, thank you for your thoughtful response. In keeping with the purpose of the forum, Could you add some remarks about how your observations and concerns fit into a God-centered framework? For example: What principles are at work, what higher purpose should be kept in mind when discussing the issue,or what underlying providential/historical issues might be involved? Or, of course, whatever else comes too mind.
Whatever principles we might advocate for improving the lot of citizens, should they not be implemented in places like Honduras, or El Salvador so that the citizens there can feel that there is real opportunity of advancement? If people in those countries see real opportunity for betterment they won’t feel so inclined to want to leave. We need to be honest as to why these people want to escape their circumstances.
Agreed. It is hard to believe that it is anything other than a deep desparation to escape to find a better life that would motivate these families to undertake such a risky, miserable migration. Addressing this desparation is the real issue.
Excellent point. What we read in the news focuses on the tragedy du jour or what’s happening on political fronts. Unfortunately, much of the good that is going on, especially in the non-governmental spheres, are under the radar. It would be interesting to hear from people who are engaged in economic development, cultural exchange, support for indigenous people. As they get more exposure, the barriers that prevent progress also surface. Perhaps Government can help in a supportive role, as the Bank of Spain did, rather than direct involvement.
Scott, I am especially interested in your question: If God were to write immigration policy considering all its dimensions, what might the policy look like? Very shortly, I think, if we accept God as our Parent, then of course all of humanity comprises our brothers and sisters. That concept alone requires us to care for one another. The question propose is: Must we care for one another only at the border crossing, or only as people immigrate to the US? Or is there a way to share knowledge, technology and/or best practices with developing nations to help them build a better national environment, thereby making it less likely that people will feel compelled to come to the US in search of the “American Dream?” Can’t we help to spread the American Dream to other countries? I am often disappointed when, in my travels, I meet young people who are… Read more »
As mature adults we need to balance the requirements between the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness with the Biblical imperative of caring for the most needy. Read There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land” (Duet 15:11). and Matthew 25:35-40 For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me. “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we… Read more »
Rob, thanks for the biblical references that do, indeed, call people to action in service to others. Rotary’s motto is “service above self”. Not only do the verses you cited reflect traditional Christian values, similar phrases exist in other cultures as well. As people of different faiths and backgrounds intermingle, it is good to be mindful that the core values of each culture are centered around caring for one another in the immediate and extended family.
I would like to add to the principles mentioned by Rob. I believe that God cares about the future of the U.S. and the viability of its sovereignty. Therefore, upholding the rule of law is not a secondary issue in this debate. Ongoing chaos at our borders is an erosion of sovereignty that our law makers have failed to address. This is not only an immigration crisis, it is a crisis of sovereignty.
I believe this essentially correct. As a “republic” the rule of law needs to be protected. If citizens choose to have laws changed, then they should use a democratic process to elect those law-makers that they see as those who will create and implement the laws that thay find to be beneficial to the society. The failure to enforce existing laws that are already on the books is significant factor in this issue.