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Can We Find a New Framework for Immigration Policy?

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.

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James Edgerly
James B. Edgerly
Admin
Reply to  Scott Simonds
16 days ago

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… Read more »

Gordon L. Anderson
Gordon L. Anderson
20 days ago

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… Read more »

Kate Tsubata
Kate Tsubata
21 days ago

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… Read more »

James Edgerly
James Edgerly
Admin
Reply to  Kate Tsubata
20 days ago

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… Read more »

Rob Sayre
Rob Sayre
27 days ago

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… Read more »

David Eaton
David M Eaton
Reply to  Scott Simonds
17 days ago

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.

James Edgerly
James Edgerly
Admin
Reply to  David M Eaton
15 days ago

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.

Rev. Carol Pobanz
CAROL D POBANZ
Reply to  Scott Simonds
24 days ago

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… Read more »

Rob Sayre
Rob Sayre
Reply to  Scott Simonds
27 days ago

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… Read more »

James Edgerly
James Edgerly
Admin
Reply to  Rob Sayre
19 days ago

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.

David Eaton
David M Eaton
Reply to  James Edgerly
17 days ago

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.

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