Let’s Talk About the Ban on Immigration {The Grove – Race}

Here at Velvet Ashes we don’t feel the need to address every hot topic or voice an opinion on the trending controversy of the week. It’s just not who we are.

We feel called to be a haven, a place of renewal.

But

I don’t think we can have an open and honest conversation about race this week without acknowledging the controversial issues that are currently swirling, namely the recent ban against seven nations from immigration into the U.S.

The issue feels so politicized that it’s hard to know how to have a conversation that actually does any good. But if there is any group of people that I’d like to process and discuss this with, it’s you.

Because even though we are a large group of diverse generations, political views, and passport countries, we all share a common bond – we know what it is to be the foreigner. And many of us live and serve among a race that is different than our own. This gives us a unique perspective.

We have a common bond, a unique perspective, and an environment of love and grace. With that foundation and with the theme of this week, I think we have the perfect opportunity to dig in and process together.

And why do we need to process this?  Because it matters.  Because when the world is having the largest refugee crisis in history and the world’s wealthiest nation attempts to close its borders (and the majority of the U.S. population is in favor of this), there are some serious issues going on.

Fear of “the other” is a powerful thing.

Looking inward

Before we go pointing fingers, let’s look inward to examine our own hearts…

  • Has living amongst another people and culture revealed any prejudices in your own heart that you didn’t know were there?
  • On days when you are frustrated or fearful, what statements have come into your head (and maybe out of your mouth) about other peoples?
  • Have you noticed feelings of your own superiority when you serve those of other races?

The issue

Let’s talk about it…

  • What are your thoughts on the U.S. ban on migration?
  • How have people that you know been affected by this?
  • What is the public opinion on this issue in the country where you live?

Fostering change

We can’t merely look inward and then talk circles around it.  What can we actually DO? Let’s brainstorm…

  • How do you handle conversations about this (and similar issues) with friends or family who believe differently than you do?
  • How can we be agents of change to those who fear “the other,” who stereotype the unknown? What works and what doesn’t?
  • What do you think we as Christians can and should do about the refugee crisis and racial tensions?

For those that are interested, here’s a compilation of Scriptures on God’s heart for the foreigner.  

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Ok, let’s dive in. Choose any questions from above and share in the comments. I’m looking forward to talking in the comments and am prayerful about where God will lead us.  

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This is The Grove and we want to hear from you! You can link up your blog post, or share your practices, ponderings, wisdom, questions, ideas, and creative expressions with us in the comments below.

 

30 Comments

  1. Annalisa February 9, 2017

    I have all sorts of thoughts about this coming from all sorts of places. First, let’s start with my family in the US. My sister-in-law arrived in the US 22 years ago as a refugee from a predominantly Muslim country. At some point after she started dating my brother but before they got married, her family finally got their US citizenship after having a green card for over a decade. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned for their safety, but I do not believe they retained their other citizenship; so it’s only the question of their race that could be mistreated. They shouldn’t be denied reentry to the US should they decide to travel, but thinks that shouldn’t happen sometimes do.
    Second, let’s look at my host country. I’m in Guatemala. If you don’t know your geography, Guatemala is a small Latin American country just south of Mexico. Many people living and working illegally in the United States are from Guatemala. One might assume that because I see the living conditions here and the desperation of the situation that I might be in favor of people being able to stay illegally in the US, but it’s sort of the opposite. I see what happens when families are ripped apart, when fathers/husbands go to the US and spend years there, sometimes starting a new family there and ignoring the family that they left behind to “make a better life for.” Quite frankly, I’d like to deport them all but make work visas much easier to obtain/enforce and perhaps enable them to bring their family with them for the duration of the visa.
    Third, there’s my family here. We’re expecting our first child; this child will have dual citizenship: US and Guatemala. There have been concerns in the expat community here that as the US President continues to alienate other countries (England, Australia, Mexico, and Iran, for starters) that the US passport will become essentially worthless. If I were in Guatemala–where my residency is currently in process–when that happened, then it wouldn’t be a big deal, but if I were to go to the US to give birth and it happened while I was there, our child and I could be isolated from my husband for who knows how long. (The child would be a Guatemalan citizen, but a baby can’t travel alone.) Also, my husband’s grandmother is quite old (96!), and he has cousins in the United States; some of them have residency but have not applied for US citizenship. If they were to come and visit her, it’s possible that they wouldn’t be able to return to their lives/homes.

    So, while I would like to see the mojados (as we call the people illegally in the US) sent back to whatever country they came from, I see the ban causing more problems than solutions and ripping apart families. 🙁 I know that was sort of all over the place and more of a general thought on immigration, but they’re all pieces of my puzzle that fit together.

    1. Danielle Wheeler February 10, 2017

      Congrats on your baby, Annalisa! And that’s a lot of pieces to your puzzle. I know our minds go to the worst case scenarios. Praying that will never be the case for you and your family and that God will guide your paths.

  2. Jodie February 9, 2017

    This Ted Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from Nigeria is really powerful: https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en

    When she came to the U.S. for college and faced her roommate’s stereotypes of her, she says:

    “What struck me was this: She had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe. In this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals…

    The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story…

    Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

    1. Danielle Wheeler February 10, 2017

      Wow, that’s a powerful quote! Amen to “Stories matter”! I’m such a believer in the power of story. I love the way that Jesus used story to empower and humanize (the Good Samaritan??). Thanks for taking time to write out the quote for us, Jodie. I want to check out that Ted Talk!

  3. Jenny February 9, 2017

    As a white American family living and working in China, I am familiar with being a foreigner. There are times we have been stared at and our children have been asked to take pictures. It kind of made me feel like we were “on display” like an exhibit in a zoo, but nothing could compare to the attention we received after we adopted a little boy from China. The attention we receive now ranges from mild curiosity to outright prying into our lives to belittling us and our adopted son. There was one time in particular that several people in a row came up and touched my children without even looking at me and another family had a long conversation about us not even a foot from us all while looking and pointing at me and my children as if we were behind glass to be casually observed. However, I must remind myself every time this happens that MOST of the time people are courteous and disinterested. The times an individual is less than cordial, or even emotionally abusive, I have to remind myself that these are individual exceptions to my overall experience. Sometimes my husband and I catch ourselves saying things like “Chinese people are…” and then remember that our son is in fact Chinese and we must not allow our small negative experiences taint our love for people, for individuals. It’s not easy, especially when it involves fear, but I believe it’s a worthy battle. I think the ban has a whole lot to do with fear. As Christians I think we must take a good look inside and ask some hard questions about the difference between our calling as Christ followers and our obligations to our families and country. Sometimes those obligations are in sync, but other times they are not. In the times they are not, we must follow Christ and choose to abandon our fear.

    1. Danielle Wheeler February 15, 2017

      Hi Jenny, yeah, I definitely understand the fish bowl effect in China, although not with an adopted Chinese child. I can only imagine! We also have had to catch ourselves from negative comments about the culture and people for the sake our kids listening ears. And if our kids shouldn’t be hearing it… we probably shouldn’t be saying it!!

      And I agree that the ban is about fear. As followers of Christ, we don’t have to live in that fear. It makes sense that a nation (of people who are not all Christ followers) would live in fear. And so, yes, our obligations to both nation and Christ are out of sync.

      I hate that the ban prevents the needy from coming in and being able to receive care from churches and Christ followers here. But it’s also a wake up call to love and care for the needy who are already in the country and to continue to send servants into these countries.

      1. C R February 15, 2017

        “And I agree that the ban is about fear. As followers of Christ, we don’t have to live in that fear. It makes sense that a nation (of people who are not all Christ followers) would live in fear. And so, yes, our obligations to both nation and Christ are out of sync.”

        This is so good about the fear factor. I think I hold people/our government to unrealistic moral/Christian expectations a lot of the time…. sadly, many who don’t know Christ and are in power just aren’t going to make decisions based on fear instead of love. So I can pray and do my part, but not get so down when folks (Christian or not) don’t live up to those standards.

  4. Ellen February 9, 2017

    My husband and I work in Africa full time. We have also spent personal and ministry funds going to Greece to support the volunteer efforts in easing the loss, pain, and despair of the refugee population. We are Caucasian.

    Please note, the ban is not against ‘immigration ‘ as a whole. It is more specific.

    We are not in favor of the ban. God has given us a different calling. Yes, the subject needs to be discussed, but please let’s be careful in our statements.

    I believe, we believe, that none of this caught God by surprise. He is at work – in us and through us (all of us).

    Our job as we see it is to be light bearers, not fear mongers; to prayerfully ask Jesus what He’s doing and how do we join Him in His mission.

    1. Renée February 10, 2017

      I really appreciate your thoughts and agree. Thanks

    2. Danielle Wheeler February 15, 2017

      You’re right Ellen, it isn’t a ban on immigration as a whole. And absolutely, we’re here not to be fear mongers, but to strategically and prayerfully discuss how we can be light bearers amidst the xenophobia we see in our world.

  5. Stephanie February 9, 2017

    My husband is from a M background and we live on the ‘border’ of the M.E. in his home country. One of his viewpoints, among many that I won’t go into here, is that for America’s sake, this is a good thing. He has seen time and again where people abuse the ‘refugee’ system to better their own situations, though they were not in need (and then use it for a power or fear building opportunity). Also, he believes that the really desperate ‘refugees’ cannot afford to pay their way to a new country (unlike the refugees that can actually gain access to US or Europe, etc.). I think there are exceptions, but I also agree with his point. The most needy can’t be heard, they’re stuck in their situation. Which means people need to GO (or those ‘refugees’ with the means need to stay and help those who have no means to escape), rather than wait for the needy to be on their doorstep and then help them in a way they still feel safe, comfortable and even greater for having helped someone out. There are some who take advantage of the system and can get out of where they are, and some who abuse the status of refugee to get economic advantages. However, there are still so many who actually are seeking refuge from a bad situation. Like Syria, like Myanmar. Even Jesus and his parents had to flee and seek refuge when Herod wanted to kill him.
    If we are looking to our own interests, refugees mess up our comfort, our safety and our ‘greatness’ (in America)–so it is the government’s responsibility to seek the betterment of it’s people in the nation. I don’t disagree with this. However, as a C, I am not called to a life of comfort, safety, or greatness. And I am also not supposed to look out for my own interests, but I am supposed to look out for the interests of others. I cannot be the judge of whether someone is taking advantage of a system or genuinely seeking refuge from evil. I am responsible for my response. So, I guess I don’t disagree with the government as a secular institution doing what it should, but as a C I don’t want to use it as an excuse to not care for orphans and widows–or to not GO and make dscpls. We as believers are called to be counter-cultural, building bridges, finding similarities and ways to exhibit His love. Whether more refugees get into the country or not, there’s still plenty of people seeking Refuge and not finding it in their physical circumstances. We are all refugees until we find the One who is our only refuge and strength.
    On a personal note regarding race, (having lived in SE Asia and West Asia for a few years now) the other day I saw a picture of a man from the northern part of this country, and he, surprisingly, looked like he could have been from the West! My immediate thought was, I wonder if he ‘acts’ like a person from here, or if he ‘acts’ like an American–I was so ashamed to think it, because I had not realized how my own expectations of race were still so subconscious that my thoughts would separate the two ‘types’ of people. I couldn’t even put a finger on exactly what those thoughts had just revealed, but I was immediately convicted that something wasn’t right. I think it still goes back to the idea of comfort, safety, and what makes me feel ‘great’–or better. I felt comfortable with his image, no threat/fear of ‘unknown’. I am far from free of racism, no matter where my husband is from, and no matter how long I end up living without comfort, safety, or greatness; but I am thankful that God only sees broken people, and loves each of us anyway and gives us Refuge when we seek Him.

    1. Michele February 12, 2017

      Such good thoughts and so well put!

  6. Lauren Pinkston February 10, 2017

    Danielle,

    I love how you framed the conversation here. It’s true that if I am going to process this current policy ban with anyone, it’s this community. I have so many feelings, but I’m afraid they are based on the rhetoric from the current administration + fear-based articles from the majority journalism outlets. It doesn’t seem anyone understands the real nuances of our political structure. Though it appear to be simple, it’s anything but that. And I can’t claim to come near speaking legalese.

    If anything, I hope that the the people with loud voices of protest against the immigration ban are getting to know the immigrants in their own neighborhoods. I learn more about government policy from people whose lives have been directly affected by it. I really, really pray that the words of opposition are met even more strongly with hands of service.

    For those in support of the current policy, I pray the same for them. That the lives of people affected by our border policing won’t just be two-dimensional and abstract, but that American citizens will seek to understand that many have unique stories to tell of their journey to our motherland. And that the grit, the fight, and the resilience of immigrants has been woven into the fabric of America’s culture that we all boast of so proudly.

    Love you. Love this space. <3

    1. Annalisa February 10, 2017

      Lauren, I think that’s one thing I’m really enjoying about living abroad right now. We don’t have a TV, and I have to go into town to get the newspaper. Facebook is my primary source of news, but it’s so divided by really passionate people on both sides of the issue that I prefer to just turn that off as well. It’s only in my face if I want it to be. This has really given me a chance to take what little I do know about the situation and just have time for quiet reflection.

    2. Danielle Wheeler February 15, 2017

      “that the grit, the fight, and the resilience of immigrants has been woven into the fabric of America’s culture that we all boast of so proudly.”

      YES!! I wanted to clap out loud at that sentence, Lauren. To be American (unless you are Native American) means you’re the descendant of an immigrant! There is no “our nation.” We are a nation of immigrants, and as messy and complex as that is, it’s what makes us great and beautiful.

      Love you and your voice.

  7. Grace L February 10, 2017

    Thank you, Danielle, for the link to the scriptures about God’s Heart for the Foreigner. I have just read them through and am once again convicted of how the Lord wants us to treat foreigners living among us, who in many cases are the refugees. My husband and I are foreigners living in rural China where we are the only white people. We have been blessed by how the local people have welcomed us and made us a part of this small city.

    But from this viewpoint of living outside of the US, we are shocked at what is going on and are strongly opposed to the ban and all it stands for. It is not the America that I grew up in (having been born during WWII). So as I read through these scriptures, it helps me to pray that Christians all around the world will trust in Jesus and not be afraid of the foreigner. I pray that we will all feel so strongly called to reach out to the foreigners that God puts in our paths, whether we be in the US or serving abroad. My heart is breaking for the many Christians in the US who are functioning out of a place of fear. O Lord, help us to stand firm in You and in Your Word.

  8. R February 10, 2017

    As always this is not as simple as banning or not banning immigration. We have to take into account how the media is portraying this “new” ban – when in reality former president Obama also enacted a ban as did G.W. Bush. The media is calling this out because of who is currently in the white house. This is not “new”. We need to be careful what new we spread without looking into history and precedent.

    There will always be pros and cons to each situation and controversy to go along with it- we need to keep in mind that it is a “temporary ban” and pray that President Trump will make wise decisions as well as for VP Pence as he helps to lead and guide this new president with Biblical Principles.

    1. Cecily February 13, 2017

      Thanks R, for your thoughts. I agree.

  9. Jane Anne Gibbs February 10, 2017

    I do not see the need for an immigration ban based on the extensive vetting that occurs with individuals and families who apply to immigrate to the United States. I am very concerned, however, with the current executive branch’s perceived prejudice and efforts in dealing with Muslim peoples. Before the 2016 presidential election concerned, at the border of a predominantly Muslim country in West Africa, my husband and I were told by a Customs and Immigration Official, that if Donald Trump were elected as president and then refused to let Muslims into the United States as well as began to deport them, we could be certain that the government of the country we had visited was completely aware of who any American m’s were in their country and would counteract such a U.S. move with a deportation of American m’s of their own. That got me thinking: do Christian Trump supporters understand that U.S. anti-Muslim stances and actions could result in U.S. m’s in Muslim and closed countries being forced to leave the field? What then happens to the work, the church, they leave behind? Will persecution of national Christians increase? Will the church be devastated or ignited because of any persecution that may occur? So in addition to social, political, and economic concerns of U.S. foreign policy, there is a component that influences the presence and work of m’s abroad. I know that our God is in control, but let us seek the path Jesus would lead us on in going to all nations.

    1. Grace L February 11, 2017

      Jane, I agree with your concerns about how this will affect m’s on the field. The fallout could be huge. Even here in China we have concerns about backlash from the government here if they don’t like what our US govt is doing.

  10. Judy February 10, 2017

    I guess I don’t understand why people so rarely talk about a couple of things in regard to this ban.
    1. It is a “temporary 6 month ban”. It is only temporary. Did I mention it’s temporary?
    2. It is being put in place so that the US can step back and be sure we are doing all we can to prevent terrorists from entering our country. The reasons those countries were chosen seems to have many reasons in regards to where Terrorist are trained as well as the governments willingness to allow terrorism to go on, etc. Those terrorists from those countries are Muslims; it’s just a fact. This temporary ban is “trying” to be put into place to give the US time to be sure those coming into our country are not here to do us harm. This is about keeping us safe…it’s national security.
    Over and over you see in the bible where cities built walls to protect themselves. This is a sort of wall we are creating to protect our country for a short time until we can safely process these people. A country needs borders, borders that are protected….because without borders…well I guess we’re just ONE WORLD….oh wait.
    God calls us to care for and love the immigrant. He also calls us to obey the laws of our land. It also does not seem that he is opposed to countries and those countries having borders. The whole world can’t come to the US….I live in a country where everyone would love to…but it’s just not practical.

    1. CW February 13, 2017

      I agree, Judy, that we must keep in mind that this ban is temporary, and we must remember the purpose for it. May God give wisdom and courage to the leaders in America who are making these difficult decisions. May He draw them close to His heart so that their decisions can reflect what is on His heart for the nations. God bless America in this very, very turbulent time.

    2. C R February 13, 2017

      Indeed it is temporary, but I work with a refugee resettlement agency, and those extra six months can literally mean life or death for a refugee that is waiting to get resettled. And unfortunately, those who have already been granted visas to come (after going through a vigourous vetting process of anywhere from 18 months to 3 years), will have to reapply and go through the process again. That’s a whole lot more time that they have their lives on hold, living in terrible conditions in a refugee camp or worse. I agree that everyone can’t come to the US and we do need to address national security concerns. But statistics show that refugees are not the ones causing problems. Our country needs to take a step back and look at the other visas that terrorists use to get into the country, not punish those who are literally living in hell and are just trying to get their families to a safe place.

      1. Grace L February 14, 2017

        Amen! Thank you for sharing your experiences and knowledge of the situation with refugees in the US.

  11. Ellen February 11, 2017

    God is so much bigger!

    He has not been caught by surprise or sleeping.

    We can trust Him to make all things right.

    I am making a serious effort to keep my hope in His plan, my eyes on Him, and resist the temptation to do ‘what is right in my own eyes’.

  12. Michele February 12, 2017

    Since many of my friends here in Kathmandu are refugees waiting for resettlement, I really should share a bit of what I’ve seen. There are about 500 urban refugees here from nearby countries, and a handful who were trafficked over from Africa. The government of Nepal does not recognize refugees so they are actually illegal immigrants, even after they have been processed and received refugee status by the UNHCR. That process is long and the process of finding them a country for resettlement and then vetting is years long. Then when they are legally set to go, there are still fines to pay Nepal- $5 per day- times 5, 7, 12 years… times however many family members! We have prayed and prayed over these situations till the government of Nepal has waived fines and we’ve been able to send them off with joy. In Nepal they cannot legally work, but the UNHCR gives no aid except for medical emergencies and minors, so they encourage them to work- illegally. Most of them want to and some do find jobs. Most employers, however, take advantage of their situation and pay them minimally or sometimes not at all! A humorous example is their efforts to get an African friend of mine to work. Nepalis tend to be very fearful and hateful toward Africans (again lack of knowledge/experience)- and even a compassionate employer would be taking a huge risk since police could immediately identify an African employee as illegal, as opposed to those from other Asian countries. UNHCR insisted on giving this young man and electrician’s kit so he could work. He told them he has no knowledge of electrical work, but still they insisted. This young man and his sister were violently attacked several months ago. Most Africans here have been. They are waiting, completely at the mercy of of the UNHCR, some other country’s embassy, and Nepal’s Immigration Department, to move on to somewhere they hope to find safety. Most are from one of the countries listed in the ban. If they were being processed for resettlement in the US, the six month ban will cause them to start all over.

    I’ve listened to many stories, and I can tell you one thing about every refugee I’ve met- They didn’t leave their country to try and take advantage of anyone or anything or to somehow increase their economic status. (In fact, many left a good economic status in their homeland). They left because if they stayed they were going to be killed. Every one that I know of left because his/her life was in danger. And they all would go home if they could. They all miss home. I realize there are exceptions to this, but this has been my experience.

    I won’t go into opinions. I understand it’s super-complicated. I am sad, of course, for the many affected negatively by this ban. I am sad that America lives in such fear, but I do understand that it is fear mostly, and not hatred (and where it is hatred, that’s been borne of fear) that causes so many to support the ban. I just thought I’d share a bit about the real people caught in limbo since I haven’t seen that in the comments yet. Like some others have mentioned, I’m thankful for this safe place to discuss it. I know this is a community of people who try hard to see things from different angles and that makes all the difference. The polarization of Americans right now makes it hard to discuss this or many issues openly elsewhere.

    1. C R February 13, 2017

      Thanks for sharing from your experience, Michele. Your perspective is really helpful. I’ve been wanting to share here from my experience, too, but hadn’t gotten the chance. After living oversees for a few years, my husband and I resettled back in the states where I work with a refugee resettlement agency and he is starting a company to employ refugees here. This whole situation in our country is super complicated, you’re right, but I agree with what you said….every refugee I’ve met has not at all tried to take advantage of the system to get to the US. They would rather be in their own countries with their families and homes and careers, but they have to flee for their life. The US currently has one of the strictest vetting systems for refugees, where the process they go through is a grueling 18 months to 3 years. There are definitely security concerns for our country, but they are with other immigration visas, not with those coming in as refugees. Their stories of survival against all odds, their perseverance, and their gratitude is incredible. I am so thankful for my life being enriched by theirs, and I hope that our country can continue to be a place of welcome and hope.

      1. Michele February 15, 2017

        Thanks for your insights, CR! I hope the knowledge and perspective you’ve gained in your work help open some hearts and minds to see things a little differently- especially, as you mentioned in a comment above, the fact that six months really does set people back years in the process. Thanks also for the work you do! Blessings on the new company as well!

        1. C R February 15, 2017

          Thanks! Blessings on your work, too!

        2. Danielle Wheeler February 15, 2017

          CR and Michele, I’m so glad you’ve both shared your experiences. SO important to hear from those that are actually on the ground with refugees, to know that the big picture actually filters down to drastically affect individuals lives. Bless you both in your work.

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