4 Ways that you’re not helping the immigration debate

Sorrow.

That’s what my wife and I have been feeling this week as we have tried to follow the news regarding what is going on at our nation’s southern border (news, which, as time passes, will be forgotten in favor of other “news”). First and foremost it’s a sorrow for those families that have traveled far to cross our border only to be separated from one another. But it’s also a sorrow that breeds from watching conversations take place in the news and on social media. The lack of compassion, the jumping to conclusions, and, dare I say, the blatant ignorance that has come out of these conversations has been painful to watch.immigration-03-ap-mt-180623_hpMain_4x3_992

(photo credit)

In light of this, I would like to offer some solutions. These aren’t solutions to our immigration problems or ways to even help those who are coming across the border. Others have proposed and explained things that will be more helpful than what I could say on those matters (Treating them like Jesus, Following Laws and Being Gracious, Understanding the Flores Agreement). Instead, these are solutions to our conversational issues. There are many awful conversations on every side of this debate and I would like to address some of those. Some have been logs in my own eye, while others are specks in yours. Either way, please take these to heart the next time you’re considering speaking (or sharing a post) about the immigration debate (or any debate, for that matter).

Comparing this to…
…everything. Our current crisis at the border has now been compared to so many things. If you lean progressive, you are likely to compare Trump’s orders to Hitler and his concentration camps. If you lean conservative, you are likely to say something akin to “if you don’t care about aborted babies, why do you care about immigrant children?” Either way is unhelpful. As a society, we need to educate ourselves in a type of public discourse that can demonstrate the objective wickedness of a matter without fulfilling Godwin’s Law. We need moral absolutes. The separation of families can be wicked on it’s own accord without needing to be compared to Hitler, abortion, or any other atrocity. Some might not find it to be wicked, some might blame the parents or societal factors (more on that below), but over all let’s have conversations that can address the morality of this issue without feeling the need to draw up comparisons or red herrings that detract from the issue at hand (i.e, when conservatives challenge progressives to feel the same way about abortion, those conservatives are actively avoiding the conversation at hand). There is also no comparison to be made with those children of active duty members of our military. This is another red herring. We don’t have an active draft in this nation and no one has been forced into the military and away from their families against their will. It would also be helpful if we avoided comparing illegal entry with domestic crimes. There may be a similarity, but it stands to reason that this is a bigger issue than citizens or legal residents committing other crimes.

Playing the blame game
As mentioned, it is common to blame others for this crisis. This can be everyone from the parents “who should never have crossed in the first place” or former presidents “who are responsible for the laws that Trump is trying to follow.” To my conservative friends, I’m sorry, but the blame game has mostly been yours to play. Regardless of who is at fault or the actions of the parents who are coming over, this crisis is precisely that: a crisis that needs resolution. And resolution won’t come easily if we are busy blaming each other for what is going on. True, the children would not be separated from their parents by our government if they didn’t come over the border, but considering the crime rate in a place like Chihuahua, Mexico, they may still be (permanently) separated from their families if they don’t find a safer place to be. (This goes to the point made by my friend Ira in the post that I shared above, which you should read).

Speaking with your memes
This will be brief. My brother-in-law has said it well, “If your thoughts can be summed up in a meme, you’re not thinking deeply enough.” Please think before you share a picture with a caption. More often than not, these snippets don’t represent even part of the truth.

Accusations of ignorance
And lastly, when you accuse someone of “not knowing what is really going on at the border”, you are elevating yourself above that person and even above the truth. Let’s assume that we all have a level of ignorance regarding this issue and that we all have a lot to learn about immigration in general. One friend of mine shared this article explaining some of the ins and outs of the current situation and how one might help those in need. She began thinking one way, and then discovered that she didn’t have all the information and changed her mind. That sort of humility needs to happen in all of our hearts. I also found this video from the Gospel Coalition to be incredibly helpful in that regard.

I leave you with James’ words from James 1.19-20:

Know this, my beloved brothers, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

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One thought on “4 Ways that you’re not helping the immigration debate

  1. Devin T. Robinson June 26, 2018 / 22:21

    Jakob:

    A thoughtful commentary like the one you shared here deserves a carefully worded and reasoned response, and I hope that my thoughts prove a worthy repartee.

    From my perspective, the central theme of your blog is more about how we communicate with each other, and less about the specifics of the current debate about issues surrounding immigration and the southern border. In that regard, I couldn’t agree more. We have to, as Christians, be able to discuss the issues of our day with people who disagree with us in such a way that we demonstrate Christ’s love. We much be gracious and loving even in our disagreement. Many Christians struggle with this, and failing to do so does great harm to our ability to impact our world for Christ.

    Comparing this to…

    Christians arguing on Facebook can be extremely frustrating, you are correct there. I’ll start my unpacking with my own side – using the pro-choice position as a bludgeon to be used again those advocating on behalf of immigrant children is lazy and counterproductive. It is not an argument that has much chance of changing hearts and minds, and reeks of “what-a-bout-ism.” That being said, I would humbly suggest that you to quickly gloss over the propensity of progressives to describe the actions of ICE at the border at similar to Hitler. If comparing temporary illegal immigrant children separation to abortion is comparing apples to oranges, than comparing the legal dispensation of current law to Hitler is like comparing apples to the Wankel Rotary Engine. To do so belies what I would argue is a dangerous lack of historical context and understanding. It is easy, and somewhat accurate, to blame both sides for the escalating rhetoric about this situation. However, this situation has been going on for many years, and articles were published years ago detailing exactly what was going on at the border, and no public outcry arose. I would argue that the reason that the rhetoric (and what-about-ism) has reached the fever pitch that it has is largely because the news media has tried to use this situation as a bludgeon against the Republicans. That does not excuse illogical and unhelpful commentary by Republicans in response, but it is a stretch to suggest that they are two sides of the same coin.

    Playing the blame game…

    Once again, at the core of your argument, you will find me in strong agreement. Throwing around accusations and blame wildly does not help advance the dialog. You mentioned the concept of the red herring a few times, and I would respectfully suggest that the crime levels in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, is exactly that – a red herring. A family from Chihuahua who wants to flee their crime ridden city can walk up to a border control point, ask to speak with an officer, and inform the officer (in Spanish) that they would like to claim asylum. If they do this, they will be brought inside, and they will be guided through the process of filing out the paperwork to claim asylum. Then, they will be housed TOGETHER as a family, until such time as their asylum case can be reviewed by an immigration judge. The only way that families are being separated, is if they attempt to sneak into the country illegally between points of entry, and then claim asylum when they are caught. My grandmother’s church in Caribou, Maine, runs a food pantry. They have hundreds of pounds of food in the food pantry in the basement of the church. Poor people can come and receive the food free of charge on specific days and during specific times. The rest of the time, the food remains behind locked doors in the food pantry. If a hungry person decides that they are going to kick in the door to the food pantry in the middle of the night, and cut the lock on the pantry and take the food that way, it is likely that they would be arrested for theft. The United States takes in a LOT of asylum seekers, but it has to be done the right way.

    In conclusion, I would agree with most of what you shared here in this piece. However, I would suggest that just because two opposing arguments are both unproductive and unhelpful does not mean that they are equally wrong. Abortion is happening. It ends the life of a child. Progressives support it. These things are true. However, they are not related to immigration at all, and therefore this argument is unhelpful. The U.S. laws for treatment of illegal immigrant children arrested on the U.S. side of the border have virtually NOTHING in common with the political policies and actions of Hitler and the National Socialist Party of Germany in the 1930s and 40s. Therefore, making this particular argument is both unhelpful and objectively false. They are not two sides of the same coin. In both cases, both parties should take care that their communication is based in fact, and shared in love with the goal of building others up, not tearing others down.

    I appreciate the time and effort you put into digesting a difficult issue like this, and I echo your call for Christians of all political persuasions to, in all things, communicate in love.

    Respectfully:

    Devin T. Robinson

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