President Trump's Executive Order Concerning Refugees

Later this afternoon President Trump is expected to sign an executive order suspending refugee resettlement for a period of time so that stricter vetting processes can be implemented. While this is the biggest change that would be made by the executive order there are other minor changes as well. You can read them all here. Many organizations and individuals that support refugee resettlement have released statements and articles concerning the executive order. They all seem to focus on one of three perspectives, however, all three perspectives are necessary in order to truly understand the complexity of this issue. Instead of making you galavant around the internet to find articles on each of these perspectives, I have outlined them here for you to consider together.

A Political Perspective

Carrying out the contents of this executive order is completely within Trump's right as President of the United States. The President has always determined the number of refugees and can decide where they come from. President Trump has chosen to ban refugees from countries that are failed states (Syria, Somalia, etc.) or are on the list of terrorist friendly nations (Libya, Sudan, etc.).

As they are written, the contents of the executive order do not breach international law in any way, and in terms of national security, some of the changes proposed make a lot of sense. For example, the executive order proposes stricter screening of all visa holders entering the US, including completion of a biometric entry-exit system and interviews for visa applicants. These changes make far more sense statistically than the suspension of refugee resettlement.

The suspension of refugee resettlement in the interest of national security could backfire. One of the ways terrorist groups like Daesh (ISIS) radicalize and brainwash their recruits is by spreading propaganda about the evil, anti-Muslim nature of Western countries. This executive order seems like it would play into such a narrative quite nicely. While this order secures our borders, it is possible that we may see an increase of second generation immigrants from the banned countries becoming radicalized because we have painted them as the enemy and sent a clear message that they are unwanted.

A Humanitarian Perspective

1 in every 113 people are displaced from their homes. That is over 60 million people worldwide. Approximately 21 million of them have been forced to flee their country. These are the individuals we know as refugees. Over 25% of refugees come from the seven countries from which immigration will be banned. That is 25% of refugees who can no longer hope to begin a new life in the US. During the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, at a time when international solidarity in sharing the burdens of refugees is absolutely necessary to save lives and to bring broken countries back to order, the US has decided to batten down the hatches and send a strong message that she doesn't care. Many other countries (France, Hungary, etc.) with extreme right leaning, nationalist political movements will take their cue from us and may use this executive order as an excuse to limit refugee assistance and resettlement in their own states. This will only cause the global humanitarian crisis to worsen. And while the people of the US may be able to successfully distance themselves from the crisis and enjoy the benefits of our strong economy and military, others around the world will suffer when we could have helped to alleviate that suffering.

A Biblical Perspective

I believe that the entire narrative of the Bible clearly opposes some of the actions implemented by this executive order. However, since I do not have the space here to go through all of Scripture, I will highlight two main principles that should inform a Christian response to this issue.

  1. The Christian life is not about safety.

Throughout the New Testament it is made clear over and over that to follow Christ is to deny one’s right to ease and safety. The Christian faith is founded on principles of sacrifice such as “take up your cross” (Luke 9:23), and “he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). We are Christians before we are Americans, and so these truths should outweigh our desire for the security of our nation. It isn’t wrong to desire safety for our families and loved ones, but if we pursue safety at the cost of living out the Gospel, we have made it an idol. Which brings me to the second biblical principle that should inform our response to President Trump’s executive order.

  1. Scripture specifically and repeatedly commands us to welcome the stranger, and to care for orphans, widows, the poor, and the oppressed.

These are not feel good suggestions; they are commands. Unfortunately many Christians have completely forgotten them or are ignoring their application to these major political issues. A presidential executive order does not get you off the hook when it comes to obeying God's word. We will all give an account of our actions (or failure to act) before God and this executive order isn't going to be a satisfactory excuse when we are standing before the throne of the King of Kings. The refugee resettlement program may be suspended for the next four months, but there are refugees who arrived last week, last month, and last year who are still waiting for you to reach out a hand of welcome in obedience to Scripture. I hope that this explanation of the three different perspectives of President Trump’s executive order concerning refugees is helpful to you. To me the issue of loving our neighbors and welcoming refugees is very simple, but in the context of a fallen world where evil and deceit abound, it can become far more complex. A balance between each of these perspectives and a reliance on God to lead us in paths of truth and wisdom are necessary to effectively grapple with these issues. In my next blog post I will be outlining some specific and practical ways that we can respond biblically to this executive order and continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus to refugees.