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FAQ’s On Immigration: What I’m being asked, and my answers – Addendum 7/11/18.

June 28, 2018
kevindglenn

If you’ve kept up with me on Facebook over the past couple of weeks, you’ll notice that I’ve been actively engaged in the conversation surrounding immigration. In particular, the zero-tolerance policy of the Trump Administration and its initial separation of children from their parents. While I’ve seen my friend list decrease a bit, for the most part, the conversations have been productive and informative (I hope).

A friend recently asked if I’d consider compiling my comments into a single post that would list the questions I’ve been addressing. So, in no particular order, here are those questions and my best attempts at answering them from the perspective of a concerned citizen and concerned Christian.

 

Q: Why are you speaking up about this now? Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama were separating families. Why are you calling out Trump and Sessions now?

A: It is my responsibility as a pastor to respond when the Bible is misused and misapplied. Session’s reference to Romans 13 contained incomplete and misleading information that needed to be corrected.

I cannot speak to the Clinton administration. I was in high school/college and was just not paying attention. I haven’t researched the immigration policies of the Clinton administration enough to comment yet, but I’ll do my homework on that.

I’m not sure it’s productive to deflect the concerns over what is happening now by comparing it to what previous administrations did. If it was wrong in the past, then we should correct the practices and learn from the errors. However, while the policies of Bush and Obama were certainly not without their flaws and controversy, it is simply not true that previous administrations were doing the same thing then that Trump is doing now.

The Trump administration’s current approach is modeled after Operation Streamline, a 2005 program under the Bush administration. The key difference from Trump’s policy is that while Bush’s program referred all illegal immigrants for prosecution, it made exceptions for adults traveling with children. The Obama administration retained these exceptions, while also beginning to prosecute those who’d been deported previously.

Even then, however, separation of families was rare. The cases of separation were connected to extenuating circumstances including doubts as to whether the accompanying adults were the child’s parents. If separation was discovered for other reasons, courts worked to quickly reunite families affected, even if the adult had to be released from being detained.

There are other significant differences between Bush/Obama and Trump. The decision to prosecute first-time crossers is completely new and exclusive to the current administration. The biggest and most disturbing one is that while separations were the exception in Bush/Obama’s policies, they are the deliberate initiative in Trump’s. By the admission of his own staff, the separation of children is being used as a power move, making these children political pawns; something both Bush and Obama had the option to do, but they had the moral clarity not to do.

 

Q: They should all be sent home together to try to enter the Legal way. Problem solved no separation needed. If they truly want to immigrate and assimilate they would do it the correct way.

A: Even families presenting themselves for asylum (which is legal) are being separated and treated like criminals. I agree with laws being followed, but the current system’s laws are maddeningly complicated, contradictory, and are frequently changing in details that make even a clerical error grounds for denial. It creates an unjust environment. We can’t pick and choose laws, but we also can’t ignore when laws, policies, and processes are so broken they cause harm to the very people they are created to help.

Maybe this illustration will help. I was at the Department of Motor Vehicles recently to get my Real ID (It’s a New Mexico thing). There is a very simple and clear set of instructions for what people need to provide. I was the only person in line to make it past the first window because the others didn’t have the right documentation. These were English speaking people working from an easily accessible and straightforward process … and they struggled with it. They were losing their minds in anger and frustration over an easy process. But we want others to “follow the law.” Making that statement only reveals a lack of awareness of just how complicated current immigration law actually is. Here’s a link to a chart that shows the confusing system we have in place. https://immigrationroad.com/green-card/immigration-flowchart-roadmap-to-green-card.php

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION – 7/11/18: A conversation with a friend recently shed more light on my answer to this question, and helped me see an incomplete assumption in part of my answer. While my answer highlighted the impossibly complicated nature of the current process, I did not include how our current process leaves out the possibility of citizenship for many people. To quote my source; we’ll call them “M.A.”:

“There really are only three ways to attempt to immigrate to the US legally. (1) Be sponsored by a family member who is already in the US legally. (2) Be sponsored by an employer. (3) Seek asylum. That’s it. (There is the diversity visa process, but those are reserved for folks from countries that do not traditionally seek to come here. So, folks from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, for example, are not eligible.) My point is that for so, so many people, there is no line to get in. There is no legal way to come to the US. Your comments indicate that the “legal way” might be impossibly difficult. I might agree with you, except that unless you have a family member or employer to sponsor you, there is no legal way.”

This is a point very well made, and well-taken by me. M.A.’s point solidifies what an oversimplification it is when someone suggests that immigrants, “just do it the legal way.”

Thanks, M.A.!!

Q: Where does it say in the Bible that we should push our own countrymen aside for those from a foreign nation?

A: The Bible actually does not teach the notion of mistreating citizens for the sake of foreigners, nor does it condone mistreating foreigners for the benefit of citizens. The Bible calls God’s people to love our neighbors and come to the aid of the stranger, the fatherless, the poor and the widow.

 

Q: How can all these children be separated from their parents when so many of them are “unaccompanied minors?”

A: Thanks to my friend, Erika, for this info: “There is a way the current process designated children as unaccompanied minors that skews the reports. There are Federal Laws in place that protects children that cross the border. Whenever they are no longer with guardians or if they crossed on their own initiative, or perhaps with a sibling group of different ages but again there is no guardian, they are considered “unaccompanied minors”. Federal Law mandates that all “unaccompanied minors” be put into protective custody like foster care for those aged 0 to 12 or special youth facilities within 72 hrs of entry and detainment. This is so that they do not have to be placed with adults and thereby be put at higher risk while awaiting their Immigration hearing. (This would be for those that cross with no documentation or those that are asylum seekers).

Historically, families were not separated. They would be allowed to be together. This law was just for those not traveling with their adult family members.

Now, with this new zero-tolerance policy from Jeff Sessions, the system requires that even parents with children be separated. This means that now all of these children with guardians have been made “unaccompanied minors” in the eyes of the law. So, although the zero-tolerance policy is not a law, the effects of this policy put the children into a different classification as “unaccompanied minors” because they have been forcibly removed from their parent(s). The system now has to process these separated children, in the same way, they would have to process any unaccompanied minor… but due to this policy, the 72 hr window (which is part of the Federal Law I mentioned) is hard to enforce because the numbers of those now considered “unaccompanied minors” are so much higher than were anticipated, or so it seems. So, the policy in itself could be creating a legal contradiction with a current Federal Law set in place for the protection of these children… let alone the question of the morality of family separation and the strong evidence of long-term trauma that stems from these events and the events that would have led up to them even making the journey to the US in the first place.”

 

Q: Doesn’t the Bible tell us to obey the law?

A: There are parallel teachings. On one hand, we are called to obey laws insofar as they do not violate the higher laws of God. For example, Jesus instructs his followers to pay their taxes, and Paul and Peter call Christians to live as good citizens (again, only to the extent there is no conflict with God’s law) and even to pray for leaders (in Peter’s case, that would have been Nero). On the other hand, the Bible is very clear in allowing for disobedience and even subversion of laws that violate God’s Word. In the same passage where Jesus calls for people to render unto Caesar,” he also undercuts and denies the title of deity that Caesar had printed on the coins. Hebrew midwives consciously disobey Pharaoh’s Law to kill babies, and the early church was breaking the law when they refused to proclaim “Caesar is Lord.”

Most striking to me is the Parable of the Good Samaritan, wherein Jesus answers the question, “who is my neighbor?” The Priest and Levite who pass by the wounded man are obeying the ceremonial law in doing so. The Samaritan is breaking the ceremonial law by touching a person who appeared dead. Jesus commends the Samaritan and condemns the Priest and Levite. Our allegiance is to Christ and his Kingdom above country, culture, custom, or code.

 

Q: So being a good Christian means that we should let anyone into our country and do away with borders?

A: No. One doesn’t have to jump to the conclusion that lawlessness is the answer to unjust laws. Instead, we work toward laws that are protective, but not oppressive. Law and order are good things. What’s being critiqued in Trump’s policy is the manner by which current laws and policies are being enforced, as well as the problematic nature of the current system itself.

 

Q: If it’s morally wrong to separate immigrant children from their parents for an illegal crime why is not morally wrong to separate our US children from their parents when they commit a crime? Isn’t it all the same?

A: First, due to the zero-tolerance policy activated by the President & AG, people who present themselves for asylum are being treated the same as those who enter illegally, so the practice itself is indiscriminate in its execution. I agree that our laws should be obeyed and enforced. However, the laws surrounding our immigration system are maddeningly complicated, often contradictory, and constantly changing. My friends serving on Both the US Border Patrol and in the immigration legal system openly talk about how unnecessarily complicated the various processes are (see the flowchart in the link). Now, I don’t think someone should be able to just stroll into the country with no vetting, but the broken nature of the current system creates an oppressive and unjust environment.

Second, those committing a crime in the United States would be citizens, and therefore, eligible for rights not available to non-citizens.

Third, the children of inmates are often placed with next of kin relatives who are also citizens and live in a home environment, rather than a holding facility.

Fourth, those children have access to visitation and can communicate with their parents. The inmate parents can also communicate with their children. So, while both scenarios result in the tragedy of the parent and child being separated, the current policy on the border creates a moral dilemma when the factors of an unjust legal code, indiscriminate execution of said code, where, and with whom children are placed, and the overall problem with children being used as political bargaining chips at all.

 

Q: You’ve said in several posts that “this is happening in my own backyard.” I live here too, so why does it matter that it is in our own backyard?

A: Because this issue being experienced right here in the borderland, us locals are able to have first-hand information. I think the proximity to us matters because of how accessible the sites are for us to personally observe, become informed, and appropriately intervene. For example, I was talking to someone yesterday who believed I was lying when I said that military Veterans are among those being deported. My access to the Deported Veterans Support House in Juarez, and the personal relationship I have with folks who serve there were necessary for the person I spoke with to even entertain what I was saying. In addition, I think our proximity increases our responsibility to both be the most informed and the most involved.

I think one of the biggest threats to the credibility, integrity, and gospel witness to borderland churches is how we will respond to this cultural moment. I recall a story from WW2 when a Protestant church located near railroad tracks failed to resist and oppose the mistreatment and murder of Jews. When the trains carrying Jews to the Concentration camps would rumble by their church during Sunday services, they would stand and sing hymns in order to drown out the sound of the trains. The current situation is admittedly not at those levels of injustice, but these are acts of injustice toward the vulnerable, so the principle stands. Those of us with the ability to speak and act have the responsibility to speak and act, especially when the action is happening just a few miles from us.

 

Q: What is the solution?? Easy to point fingers and say ‘injustice’ but with no solution proposed sounds a lot like the news media with a whole lot of talk and no action.

A: I think the conversation we’re having in our country right now is central to the solution. We have to converse, dialogue, debate, and communicate in order to clarify the nature of the problem. Otherwise, we’ll just add more layers to an already convoluted system. The tough part is that our nation is so polarized that we can’t even reach clarity on whether or not separating families is really a problem.

 

Q: Isn’t separating families is the result of the parents’ criminal act?

A: Families are not being separated as a result of their “criminal act”. Families are being separated by the “zero tolerance” policy enacted officially by Jeff Sessions in May, although there were cases of this last fall as well. The zero tolerance refers to all border crossers, regardless of whether they crossed illegally, as you mentioned, or if they are seeking asylum or are refugees… The latter two being completely legal.

 

Q: I heard you say that Trump’s policy is unconstitutional. Where are you getting that?

The Fifth Amendment states that “no person … shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

The issue of due process is at the heart of many immigration cases, including Reno v. Flores, the 1993 Supreme Court case that has returned to the spotlight with the surge in family separations. The case led to an agreement requiring the government to release children to their parents, a relative or a licensed program within 20 days. In the ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote: “it is well established that the Fifth Amendment entitles aliens to due process of law in deportation proceedings.”

Cristina Rodriguez, a professor at Yale Law School, recently observed, “Most of the provisions of the Constitution apply on the basis of personhood and jurisdiction in the United States.” Many parts of the Constitution use the term “people” or “person” rather than “citizen.” Rodriguez said those laws apply to everyone physically on U.S. soil, whether or not they are a citizen. As a result, many of the basic rights, such as the freedom of religion and speech, the right to due process and equal protection under the law apply to citizens and noncitizens.

When my church talked about sexual abuse.

June 1, 2018
kevindglenn

The #metoo movement has rightly exposed a startling degree of abuse committed against women and men and has exposed both perpetrators of abuse, and the toxic attitudes that create environments for abuse to take place. Soon after the #metoo hashtag became popular, another one followed; #churchtoo. Numerous stories began to surface in which females and males were abused, assaulted, molested, or otherwise treated inappropriately by adults in churches. Rather than holding abusers accountable by reporting them to authorities, an alarming number of churches chose instead to suppress, minimize, shame, intimidate, or otherwise cover-up the abuse.

The Catholic church’s cover-up broke first through the tenacity of reporters at the Boston Globe. More recently, sexual abuse and cover-up manifested itself in the world’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The manner by which sexual abuse has come to light in the SBC is through repeated mishandling of accusations of sexual abuse by Dr. Paige Patterson. Former students, April Anderson, Diane Montgomery, and Megan Lively, have each shared stories of being shamed, ignored, ridiculed, intimidated, and having their reports of sexual abuse minimized and not reported to police by Patterson or his associates.* Such a toxic environment was only exacerbated by the surfacing of statement Patterson made in sermons that minimized domestic abuse and demeaned a teenage girl.

In addition, Washington Post religion reporter, Sarah Pulliam-Bailey, released a story, quite literally as I was writing this post, which confirms that Patterson actively sought to downplay reports of rape, even writing of his intent to meet with a woman who reported being raped on campus in 2015 in order to “break her down.” **

As a result of these and other incidents bringing to light the need for churches to better understand and address sexual abuse, many Christian leaders are wondering how best to approach the conversation. It’s sensitive, delicate, and uncomfortable, but it’s also important, timely, and necessary.

I pastor a church affiliated with the SBC, but as many who know our church will tell you, “We’re baptist with a little ‘b,'” meaning that we are more focused on being identified with the mission of Jesus than with a denomination. One of the best things about the church I serve is their willingness to engage in important conversations. A few months ago, I did a series of sermons on marriage, singleness, and sexuality. One of those Sundays was dedicated to the reality of sexual abuse. A panel of people joined me on the platform to share their expertise and their stories. It was a powerful time that empowered a lot of people, especially since every member of the panel is also an active member of Calvary. I’m sharing a video of that panel in hopes that it can assist, model, and empower other churches and church leaders toward engaging this important conversation.

 

 

*A full story on these women is available here: https://www.christianpost.com/news/paige-patterson-scandal-female-alumni-recount-toxic-environment-2003-rape-victim-speaks-224468/

**Sarah Pulliam-Bailey’s piece is here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/06/01/southern-baptist-seminary-drops-bombshell-why-paige-patterson-was-fired/?utm_term=.3c8632dc4ed1

Turning the Paige: When Accountability Must Outweigh Loyalty.

May 17, 2018
kevindglenn

Dr. Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and prominent personality within the Southern Baptist Convention has come under criticism recently for statements that surfaced regarding issues related to divorce and domestic abuse [1], and sexualized language toward a young woman. [2]

Social Media, Main Stream Media, and Religious Media, including the Southern Baptist Convention’s own news agency, were quick to report and respond. It was big news in light of the current cultural attention on sexual and domestic abuse through the #metoo and #churchtoo movements.

I’m proud of the voices from leaders like Ed Stetzer, Matt Chandler, Russell Moore, Thom Rainer, and Beth Moore, who have expressed grave concern and appropriate criticism for the statements. Such voices, however, seem to be the exception among SBC leadership. It’s the response of my fellow Baptist leaders who have run interference for Dr. Patterson, made excuses, stayed silent, marginalized those who would speak up, or, as one colleague who is employed in an SBC agency, even suggest that doing so could endanger one’s career. Ed Stetzer shared his own experience with such pressure in his article when he wrote, “Again and again, no one says anything because that’s what we are told to do.” [3]

Unfortunately, such an approach gets noticed. A recent piece in The Atlantic highlights the problematic silence and sheltering comments from key SBC leaders:

“The tight-knit Southern Baptist boys’ club is not so easily unraveled, and many leaders have sheltered their colleague. Some have simply remained mum. The denomination’s Executive Committee has not acknowledged the controversy despite the media coverage it has received. Current SBC President Steve Gaines has also stayed silent, though today he curiously tweeted, ‘You must not speak everything that crosses your mind’ and encouraged people to ‘read your Bible more than you check [social media].’ Others have actually offered their support. For example, Atlanta-based pastor and former SBC President Johnny Hunt took to Twitter to praise Patterson as ‘a man of   God and a man of your word.’ It’s not difficult to denounce domestic violence, and it shouldn’t be controversial. And yet, America’s largest Protestant denomination now seems to be ethically schizophrenic when it comes to the topic.”[4]

The go-to responses of several other leaders have been to discourage conversation on these issues through diversion. A composite of similar statements go something like this, “We should celebrate the good things God is doing in our churches and communities and be focused on the work of the Kingdom.” Concerns over Dr. Patterson’s statements have been dismissed as “chatter,” “malicious gossip,” “demonization,” or “distractions.”

This post is a response to these types of responses. It is a perspective I believe is appropriate to share in light what some SBC leaders are saying, not saying, and discouraging others from saying. My intention is not to be divisive. Instead, my prayer is that what I share could be an accompanying source of light, so that we all might see better … but then again, I’m not always the brightest bulb in the socket … and I could be completely wrong.

However, for what it’s worth, here goes …

I agree that we should celebrate the great things God is doing in our churches and communities but is it not also a good work of God when we engage in exhortation, accountability, and correction when our brother or sister has said or done something that warrants at least clarification if not full on critique and correction?

I agree that demonization is never the right way to approach concern or criticism of another’s position but is it not a form of demonization or at least minimization to characterize the concerns over the damaging things said, done, and taught by denominational leaders as “chatter,” “gossip,” or “distraction?” While demonizing certainly hinders our work, so does minimizing and ignoring legitimate concerns.

Are concerned Southern Baptists out of line to call into question teachings or counsel that appear to take domestic abuse so lightly; even excusing such abuse in light of the salvation of the husband? How is it an act of distraction to voice criticism for an illustration that makes its point by describing a teenage girl in a demeaning and sexualized manner? If Beth Moore made the same point by saying a man was “endowed” (which would be a  synonymous term for “built” in the context), would there be the same closing of ranks and calls for silence masquerading as “Kingdom Focus” from our denominational leaders?

I agree that our focus is to be on Kingdom work, but is it not also true that such a focus must include concern for how the gospel of Christ’s Kingdom is represented to our world by both laity and leadership? Doesn’t the Bible call us to hold one another to account, especially teachers, and leaders? Why then is there such a pattern in the SBC of working to minimize or even silence voices of critique when those concerns are leveled toward a revered, accomplished, or even likable leader? Ed Stetzer wrote about his own experiences, but I know plenty of pastors, seminary students, and convention/seminary employees whose jobs and educations have been threatened over voicing concerns or critique toward a powerful or popular denominational personality. This is not healthy, nor is it Biblical. No human being and no institution is beyond the reach of critique and correction, no matter how popular they are, or what memorable and historic things they may have done.

If the gospel is not moving the church toward the truth and grace of internal accountability, then how can we expect the gospel to make sense to a world to whom we preach Christ’s Kingdom call to repent, believe, and follow? Our mandate is to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. But when our loyalty to denominational identity robs us of the humility to walk where God is walking (even if it’s on our toes), we display a level of consent to the injustices committed against the oppressed, as well as a limited capacity for mercy toward the oppressed.

I read late last week that Dr. Patterson has issued a statement of apology. In response, some have questioned the sincerity of his apology. I can understand the skepticism for two reasons. First, he does not apologize for the actual content of his statements, only that they were not clear. Not only do I believe his lack of clarity was problematic, but the actual content did not convey the seriousness of domestic abuse, and was demeaning toward a young woman. Second, it seems to have taken a petition with a few thousand signatures from concerned Southern Baptists to surface before a statement of apology appeared at all. The specter of not doing the right thing until it appears you have to does not bode well for the SBC, whose previous annual meeting failed to vote on a resolution condemning white supremacy until pressure from concerned ministers and social media forced the resolutions committee to bring the resolution to the floor for vote (it had been declined), and the body of Messengers back into session.

So, was Dr. Patterson’s apology sincere? I don’t know. I want to believe it was. I want to move forward with cautious optimism that Dr. Patterson’s apology will bear fruit through him wielding his influence in the Seminary and in the Convention toward a healthier and more biblically faithful approach to domestic violence, sexual abuse, marital issues, and both a recognition and celebration of our sisters in Christ for the image-bearing, redemptive and completing (see the Hebrew terms for “suitable Helper”) partners they are to us male rough drafts.

If this is not what Dr. Patterson is prepared and willing to do, then I believe his apology should be accepted only if it is accompanied by his resignation. There is too much at stake for this not to be taken seriously by Christians in general, as well as Southern Baptists and Trustees of Southwestern Seminary in particular.

______________________________________________________________________________

[1] The specific statements regarding domestic abuse is here: https://archive.org/details/PaigePattersonsbcAdviceToVictimsOfDomesticViolence

[2] The statement about a young woman can be found here: https://youtu.be/gDRUVmcaQ3k

[3] https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/may/paige-patterson-end-of-era.html

[4] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/05/sbc-patterson/559532/

 

Of Walls and Borders: Pt. 2 – Financial Concerns

May 8, 2018
kevindglenn

Are immigrants a fiscal drain on public resources?

 In addition to the job concerns raised in my previous post, immigration specialist and devout Christian, James R. Edwards, explains another economic concern often raised by Christians seeking to understand and respond to the immigration issue. “Immigrants who pay few taxes and draw heavily upon public services have been a significant burden on the communities in which they have settled.” [1] Such a problem is met with a mixed response from researchers. One study observes that immigrants do not pose an overall financial burden on the citizenry. However, the same study says in contrast that in a localized context, a concentrated immigrant population can and often does prove to be a financial issue for the community. [2] Such a burden is attributed not to the immigrants themselves, but to an insufficient appropriation of resources to these particular geographical areas. However, in many of these locations, immigrants and natives often live in close proximity. The lack of coordination between local, state, and Federal authorities results in insufficient federal funding to these locales. Unfortunately, such problems result in negative perceptions toward immigrants.

In contrast to Edwards’ assumptions regarding the taxes paid by immigrants, Stephen Moore, an economist with the Cato Institute, observes that many immigrants do indeed contribute tax revenue toward the public services they use. In fact, Moore finds the average immigrant pays nearly $80,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits over their lifetime. This is based on the immigrant paying an average of $105,000 more to the federal government than benefits received from the federal government while receiving on average $25,000 in benefits more from state and local governments than is paid to state and local governments. [3]

The data collected from naturalized immigrants suggests they generally have a positive effect on public resources and nation-wide economics. As one author states, “immigrants do not further split up the pie; they enlarge it.” [4] The glaring problem in this comparison, however, is the missing factor of undocumented immigrants. One can do little more than speculate on the extent to which undocumented immigrants impact the economic well-being of native and naturalized citizens. This is a very important consideration for which information is limited. No doubt the factor of undocumented immigrants fuels the debate since that unknown factor skews existing data. Proposed immigration reforms must account for and address the problem of undocumented immigrants. Such options will be discussed later in this series.

Christians will differ on how to address the economic issues related to immigration policy. But believers can certainly agree that no person, immigrant or native should be measured by their potential capital output, but rather by their status as bearers of God’s image.

[1] Swain, Debating Immigration, 60

[2] Pilar Marrero, Killing the American Dream: How Anti-immigration Extremists Are Destroying the Nation (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 194

[3] Stephen Moore, A Fiscal Portrait of the Newest Americans (Washington, D.C.: National Immigration Forum, 1998), 20.

[4] Tanya Maria. Golash-Boza, Due Process Denied: Detentions and Deportations in the United States (New York: Routledge, 2012), 204

Of Walls and Borders: Christian Perspectives on Immigration – Pt. 1

May 7, 2018
kevindglenn

This past Sunday at Calvary (the church I pastor), we hosted a forum for an immigration attorney to come and share about the nature and challenges of her work, the immigration system itself, and what immigrants experience as they go through the naturalization process, as well as asylum, and deportation. It was insightful, informative, and heart-breaking. It inspired me to share information I compiled in an essay from a few years ago. I’ll share the essay in several parts over the next few posts.

___________________________________________________________________________

Although I now live in New Mexico, I’m a native of Florida. Florida natives are an interesting and rare breed. Florida natives possess a certain pride and frustration reflected in a popular bumper sticker message directed at the many seasonal residents of the sunshine state. The message is simple and straight-forward, “Welcome to Florida, now go home.” Another is equally popular, “We don’t care how you do it up north.” Still, another is functional in its tone, “When I get old, I’m moving north and driving slow.”

While these messages are sent in good fun, they convey several misconceptions. First, is the misconception that seasonal residents are bad for the economy. In reality, much was gained when the snowbirds came to town. Church attendance increased, businesses enjoyed the additional activity, and the increase in population allowed for greater real-estate revenue. While these half-year residents may not have paid as much in taxes as natives, they certainly contributed to the welfare of the community. Yes, they drove slowly, but they came as most of us came; from somewhere else. The second misconception is perhaps the most important. While my great-great grandmother was Seminole, my self-identity as a “native Floridian” is arguable.

Members of the Seminole tribe could point to the invasion of their land by my Scottish-born ancestors with much more disdain and cause for lament than my shallow rejection of snowbirds. The Seminoles are the true Native Floridians, I am the immigrant. In fact, we are a nation of immigrants, making the issue of immigration one that requires a wise, careful, and thoroughly biblical response.

While the messages sent from my bumper sticker to snowbirds generated friendly jibing, Immigrants in the United States have often encountered serious intolerance along with negative, if not inaccurate stereotypes.  While it is accurate to point to historical and political realities for their impact on one’s attitude toward immigrants, a fair question can be raised; where do those attitudes come from? Are there underlying factors connected to the formation of society’s perspective toward immigrants on an individual level?

To this question, several proposals have been offered. These include how one’s attitudes are influenced by the condition of the economy, how perspectives are shaped by concerns over safety and security, and how one’s affinity for their own culture impacts their capacity to accept the cultural particularities of another. There are many studies that provide helpful information regarding general attitudes toward immigration policy. [1]

People of faith, Christian faith in particular also form their perspectives on immigration through the lenses of the economy, security, and culture. Religion, however, has been mentioned as an almost incidental element in the formulation of one’s attitude toward immigration. Until recently, the role of religious thought and practice as a key element in the formulation of such attitudes has been overlooked as an area of serious study. While researching this series, it was interesting to note the appeal that more attention be given to religion’s role in this area by researchers themselves. Sociologist Steven Warner called the absence of material a “huge scholarly blind spot”.  [2]

Of course, just as there are widely diverse perspectives in each of the three conditions mentioned above, adding religious affiliation to the interpretive mix in no way yields a unified religious response. This is illustrated through my affiliation with a ministry to border residents and its director. The research reveals a primary concern often expressed by potential visiting church groups is whether or not the immigrants they would serve are “legal or illegal”. In more than a few cases, church groups elect to avoid ministry efforts toward undocumented immigrants. It was believed by these groups that to do so would serve to enable illegal activity [3]  While it has been no surprise for Christian groups to state their convictions on moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage, my source with the border ministry has been surprised to see more and more groups view immigration as a moral issue, and therefore decline opportunities to minister to what they call “illegal aliens”. The news, however, is not all negative. My source reports that other groups increasingly seek out his ministry in order to seize opportunities to minister specifically to immigrants they know to be undocumented.  [4]

Why would some groups decline to engage in ministry to undocumented immigrants based on Christian conviction, while others cite Christian conviction as a reason to seek such an opportunity?

The information above illustrates a significant divide among Christians in their attitudes toward immigration. While the reason for the differing responses above are cited as Christian conviction, this series of posts will observe the way in which one’s Christian beliefs are constantly at odds with one’s sense of economic, security, and cultural self-preservation, and how this struggle impacts one’s understanding of the information available on immigration issues. This leads members of the Body of Christ to very different mechanisms by which they process and interpret the economic, security, and cultural factors of the current immigration conversation. The goal of this series is to heighten one’s awareness to the diversity of perspective within the Body and to provide a synopsis of the differing views of Christians in a way that promotes greater understanding and education. My hope is that even with differing perspectives on immigration policy issues, Christians will see immigrants as people in need of compassionate ministry, love, and respect. They are what all of us were at one time; strangers in need of a place and people.

Economic Concerns

A Christian perspective on the economic impact of immigration can be summarized through two different questions. One, can our nation afford the number of immigrants crossing our borders? Two, can our nation afford not to have the number of immigrants crossing our borders? To be sure, one could speculate that both sides would agree such questions on their own are temptations to see immigrants as fiscal units rather than as individuals made in God’s image. This, however, must be held I tension with the reality of the concerns raised by immigration’s economic impact.

  1. The influx of immigrants takes jobs from native workers.

Citing studies by Harvard economist George Borjas, immigration specialist and devout Christian, James R. Edwards, observes that a large number of low-skilled immigrants puts “downward pressure on low-end wages”, making it difficult for low-skilled citizens to compete for the same jobs, since the immigrant will usually do the job for much less money. This, according to Edwards, “is not a good thing for America’s low-skilled workers, leaving them vulnerable to…direct job competition, wage depression, and flooded labor markets.” [5] This claim assumes an influx of immigrants sufficient to create such an environment of job competition. However, other factors are present to temper this claim.

The condition of America’s current and future labor force must be taken into account. It is projected that from 2006 to 2016, the U.S. economy will grow at an average rate of 2.8%, a modest projection to be sure, but one that will generate an increased need for workers in the labor force. Among citizens, no increase in the labor force is expected between now and 2020, leading to an aging native labor force. [6]  In addition, Jenny Hwang, devout Christian, and director of the Refugee and Immigration Program of World Relief, notes that “low U.S. fertility rates will not only slow labor force growth but increase the ratio of retired people to working people.” [7] In short, there are simply not enough native-born workers to replenish the low-skilled labor force as its needs grow with the economy unless those gaps are filled by immigrants.

The citizenry that makes up the current labor force is also becoming more educated. In 1960, 50% of American men dropped out of high school to work a trade or join the military (my father being among them). Presently, less than 10% do so. However, of the 50.7 million jobs projected to be created between now and 2016, half will require no more than high school diploma. [8]

The suggested solution to this situation is to tighten and limit the extent to which immigrants can fill the gaps mentioned above. Such attempts, however, have been problematic and have produced shortages. Hugh Morton of the National Association of Home Builders points out that “contractors struggling to find quality roofers, concrete finishers, etc…found immigrant trade contractors a godsend.” [9]  In 2011, crackdowns on immigrant workers in Georgia led to an astonishing 50% of its agricultural produce being left to rot in the fields – at a cost to the state of more than $400 million, with total losses prompted by the act topping $1billion. In Alabama, immigration limitations have cost the state $11 billion since June of 2011. [10] New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg said of immigrants, “New York City alone is home to more than three million immigrants, who make up 40% of our population…our City’s economy would collapse if they were deported. The same holds true for the nation.” [11] The entrepreneurial spirit of many immigrants accounts for a number of business and services that would otherwise not exist due to the culturally distinct manner by which some immigrants perform their service. [12]

Low-skilled jobs are not the only areas of employment where Christians raise economic concern. Highly skilled positions are also addressed, although concern does not appear to be as intense in this area. Edwards confirms that among the gains and benefits brought to the nation through immigration, those related to work done by “highly educated and entrepreneurially talented immigrants” is seen as a valuable contribution to the economic picture. Notable examples are, Sergey Brin, Russian immigrant who founded Google, Inc., John and David Tu, Taiwanese immigrants and founders of the multi-billion dollar Kingston Technology, Dr. Alfred Quinones-Hinojosa, neuro-surgeon at Johns Hopkins University, who picked tomatoes in the fields of California as an undocumented immigrant before working his way through school, eventually attending Harvard Medical School. It is clear from these examples that the contribution of immigrants to the fields of science and technology in the U.S. is unmistakable. Another Taiwanese immigrant, Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo, explains,

“Yahoo would not be an American company today if the United States had not welcomed my family and me almost 30 years ago. We must do all we can to ensure that the door is open for the next generation of top entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists from around the world to come to the U.S. and thrive.” [13]

It would seem that while concerns are valid regarding the number of immigrants entering the U.S., there appears to be sufficient room for both citizens and immigrants in both high-skill and low-skill jobs. However, more research is needed, including an answer for why contractors would have trouble finding roofers, masons, and concrete finishers at a time during which so many are out of work, and why American students continue to score low in math and science, while the best educational institutions and the most state-of-the-art research facilities in the world reside in the United States. It appears the world makes the U.S. its destination of choice while its own citizenry struggles to seize the opportunities in its own back-yard.

Next Post: Are immigrants a fiscal drain on public resources?

[1]Tanya Maria. Golash-Boza, Due Process Denied: Detentions and Deportations in the United States (New York: Routledge, 2012), 47.

[2] Warner Steven, “Religion, Boundaries, and Bridges.,” Sociology of Religion 58, no. 3 (1997): 217.

[3] Border ministry source, interview by author, August 26, 2012.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Carol M. Swain, Debating Immigration (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 60.

[6] Betty W. Su, “The U.S. Economy to 2016: Slower Growth as Boomers Begin to Retire,” Monthly Labor Review 130, no. 11 (2007): 13, accessed December 2, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2007/11/contents.htm.

[7] Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang, Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009), 118.

[8] Arlene Dohm and Lynn Schniper, “Occupational Employment Projections to 2016,”Monthly Labor Review 103, no. 11 (2007): 33, accessed 2012.

[9] Sorens and Hwang, Welcoming the Stranger, 119

[10] Ed Pilkington, “Kansas Prepares for Clash of Wills over Future of Unauthorised Immigrants,” The Guardian, February 2, 2012, section goes here, accessed December 3, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/02/kansas-prepares-clash-unauthorised-migrants.

[11]Testimony the Committee on Judiciary, United States Senate (2006) (testimony of Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, City of New York).

[12] My research revealed numerous branches of business supporting this claim. In the interest of space, a brief list would include; food services, tailoring, art, alternative medicine, exercise, and non-traditional education, just to name a few.

[13] “US Venture Capitalists Investing in Immigrant Businesses,” US Venture Capitalists Investing in Immigrant Businesses, 2006, accessed December 05, 2012, http://www.workpermit.com/news/2006_11_27/us/immigrant_business_venture_capital.htm

The Blessing of the Old Folks at Home

December 12, 2017
kevindglenn

I am a native Floridian. That’s a title belonging to a smaller number of people than you might think. But I’m part of an even smaller group. I’m a native Floridian born and raised in the IPC. That’s Imperial Polk County. It’s not the Florida featured in tourist publications or other media designed to attract you to the Sunshine State. It’s not necessarily highlighted on TV shows, except maybe for Bizarre Foods America – you know, because we eat squirrel chili and swamp cabbage.

I grew up here in Auburndale, Florida. We have far more Live Oaks and Palmetto bushes than we do Palm trees. Our idea of a day on the water is on a lake, on the Peace River, or at a mud-hole with a 4×4. When I was in 5th grade, my music teacher, Mrs. Jones (there’s a road named after her husband, Fred, who was a long-time member of the Florida House of Representatives) taught us the state song, Old Folks at Home, aka, Suwannee River. I was part of the Caldwell Elementary Baritone Ukulele Band, so we also learned the chords.The song is racially insensitive, to say the least. Mrs. Jones would likely get on big trouble for teaching it to kids today, but the message image of old folks at home stuck with me all these years. Back then, I had no idea what the song meant, other than it being a river we would cross on our way to my family’s hunting camp, and that it was about old folks. In 5th grade, everyone older than 16 was an old folk.

But in my hometown, these old folks were involved and invested in my life. Bud Harper cut my hair. Bud cut a lot of hair on a lot of heads. He would talk to us when he cut our hair. I remember him telling me how important it is to look another person in the eye when you talk to them. He made me practice when he was cutting the front of my hair. When he took the clippers to the back of my neck, he said: “bow your head and say a prayer, son.” Bud told me to approach a girl I had a crush on and confidently, say, “Stephanie, I think you’re pretty, do you think I’m pretty?” When it didn’t work, he said, “It’ll work on the right girl, Kevin. Don’t you worry.” It worked on Serena. Thanks, Bud.

Mrs. Webb taught Geography at my middle school. She taught my dad, too. She said I was just like him. I asked if that was okay and she said, “We’ll see.”

Don Ratterree led the Children’s Church when I was a kid. He made me lead the singing when he heard that I could sing. “Get up here, Kevin. The Lord gave you a gift and you better use it.” I did. I still am. Thanks, Don.

Mrs. Kilpatrick was my best friend’s mom. His name was also Kevin. She said she went to a school called Slippery Rock University. I always thought she was joking. Then they took me on vacation with them and we went to the campus. Mrs. K never let Kevin and I miss church when we stayed up all night fishing on Saturday (they lived on a lake). Her husband, Burl helped me learn how to sing the bass line when my voice changed. Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. K.

When I entered 6th grade, Harry Vann heard from Don Ratterree that I had memorized a lot of Bible verses. Harry told me to get a Bible lesson ready to bring to the youth. My first Bible study was to a group of High School juniors and seniors. I was scared to death, so he made me do it again. And again. So, when you ask me how I got comfortable teaching people older than me. That’s how. Thanks, Harry.

Any of you who’ve known me know the impact of my Granny. Someone said I should write a book on all Granny taught me and title it, Granny said … I think I need to do that. Thanks, Granny.

My Dad was a firefighter and mechanic. He could (and did) fix anything. He also was the coolest and calmest person I’ve ever seen under pressure. The more intense the emergency, the more calm Dad became. This was contagious. It made you calm. The current Fire Chief in Auburndale started out under my Dad. Chief Hall said today, “We would ask your Dad in a tough situation, ‘What are we going to do, Louie (slang for Lieutenant)?’ He’d say, ‘We’re going to go to work.’” He never broke his stride. He led by example because that’s the example Dad had set for him by his Father, my Paw-Paw. Dad was as tender toward his loved ones as he was tough. He had the kind of rock-steady faith that was caught in his actions rather than taught in his words. My old man and I are so close. While these other folks mentioned above have made a profound impact on me in many ways, it’s my Dad who was and is my hero. Thanks, Dad

Dad passed away last week.

I got the news just before take-off as I was flying home to Auburndale. He’d taken a turn in his fight with cancer and I was hoping to get home before he passed. I got to talk to him the day before, though. I told him how much I loved him, and how proud to be his son that I am. I told him that I knew he was hurting and that if he was ready to go home that he shouldn’t wait for me. I knew where he would be and that I’d see him in a little while. I ended by saying, “I love you, Old Man.”

The Old Man is home now. Home with Granny, Mr. K, Paw-Paw, NaNa, Don, Harry, and so many other old folks.

This week, I’ve been able to catch up with some of the old folks whose home is still here in Auburndale. I went to church where many of them still faithfully worship. They had no idea how much they ministered to me. Amid all the congratulations, pats on the back, and words of how proud they are of me “being a preacher,” or how “you made a doctor,” was a lost, frightened, and hurting kid.

I needed the old folks.

And there they were – at home.

Dad’s passing had me feeling lost and disoriented, but these folks have taken me back to my roots and helped me find my footing again.

I’ve been guilty at times of being impatient with older folks and forgetful of the importance of our elders in the life of individuals, families, communities, and society. It can be easy to do. But in a world that’s running non-stop, and is defined by a general loss of depth and direction, I wonder what kind of footing we would regain if we slowed down to listen and learn from the old folks?

They are easy to find. Just go home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lament for Those Hurting

June 19, 2017
kevindglenn

A Lament for people:
 
All people.
 
I grieve for both Christians and Muslims killed by radicalized Islamic terrorists.
 
I grieve for Barron Trump when “comedians” publish photos of his Father’s decapitated head.
 
I grieved for Sasha and Malia Obama when Christians compared their Dad to the Anti-Christ.
 
I grieve when whites kill blacks and when blacks kill whites, and for how both sides at different times have justified the violence toward the other.
 
I grieve when people; gay, straight, bi-sexual, transgendered, or questioning, are dehumanized by others in the name of God, whose Son gave His life for their redemption.
 
I grieve when Christians are bombed in Egypt while worshipping, and I grieve when Muslims are run down by a vehicle in London while leaving their place of worship.
 
I grieved when I learned that Google searches for “ni**er” jokes spiked after the election and re-election of Barak Obama, particularly in the “Bible Belt.”
 
I grieve when Shakespeare in the Park’s “Julius Caesar” assassination scene uses a look-a-like of President Trump; to the applause of the audience.
 
But we must do more than passively grieve.
 
If you are human, you bear a responsibility to be part of the solution to the dehumanizing incivility in our culture. You do not have to agree politically or religiously, but you MUST step in, speak up, and turn this tide.
 
If you claim to be a follower of Jesus and you defend any of the injustices above, and if you are not willing to take on your calling to embody your love for God by manifesting love for your neighbor, then your confession of Christ is little more than an act of taking his name in vain.
Join me in prayer:
 
God, help us …
 
Help us defend each other.
Help us call out each other.
Help us better argue with each other.
Help us better agree with each other.
Help us learn that we need each other.
Help us learn from each other.
Help us learn to forgive each other.
Help us live for each other.
Help us learn to love each other.
 
God, help us to help each other.
 
God, help us …
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