January 30, 2017

A Foreigner’s view on US Immigration

by Clint Archer
old school immigrationSo, I have never done this before, but I just received an e-mail from a friend who is a politician in the USA, and I punched out a quick reply that I thought I’d post here for your comment to help me think through the issue of refugees, immigrants (legal & illegal).
Disclaimer: I am not American, but am married to one and father of four of them, so I have a keen interest in what happens on the other side of the pond. Naturally, I am removed from all the nuances of the debate, which is why I’m hoping your comments can help elucidate the issue for me.
Another disclaimer: I typed this out 20 mins before the blog went live, so it hasn’t even been proofread by my editor!

Hi Clint,

Have you blogged on the U.S. refugee crisis? If not, are you able to share your thoughts? I’m conflicted on role of church in U.S. versus role of government in this situation. Generally supportive of recent measures to limit refugees based on national security. But empathetic to arguments on the other side. Thoughts?
My reply…

Here are some thoughts off the top of my head:
On one hand, every country has the right and perhaps even duty to protect its way of life and maintain a certain degree of homogeneity. When I visited Bhutan I was struck by what the extreme version of that philosophy looks like. Even visitors are not allowed to be anywhere without a government approved travel guide, and there is a $500 a day tax on all tourists! But, consequently, their culture and way of life is quite pristinely preserved.
Also, let’s not jump at shadows: President Trump’s policies are not exactly draconian or unprecedented. From Reagan to W the level of accepted immigrants stayed pretty level. This “new” policy is just a reversion to that mean, right?
On the other hand, America has a longstanding, long-admired reputation in the “send us your huddled masses” tradition. Political support for a welcoming, compassionate foreign policy isn’t exactly a Christian duty, but it certainly sits well with we who subscribe to the Good Samaritan ‘who is my neighbor?’ ideal.
huddled massesThat said, I believe it is perfectly possible to hold a conservative political opinion of, say, limiting immigration on the basis of what leadership perceives is best for the country as a whole (economically, safety, etc.), while concurrently pursuing an active compassion toward foreigners, that the Lord brings across my path personally.
As one who lived in US for six years, legally, as a foreign student, I have little sympathy for illegal immigrants who circumvent the legitimate means of residing in the US.
But legal immigration is part and parcel of the American spirit. Unless you’re a Native American, it seems pretty hypocritical to insist that those who live in the 50 states need to have come from indigenous stock. This is a reality I’m confronted with every day as a White South African; it’s just more obvious when my non-indigenous ancestry is part of the national minority. Remember that South Africa is no stranger to ironic xenophobia–our population erupts perennially with violence against legal immigrants from neighboring countries like Mozambique and Zimbabwe, sparked by unemployment woes. And we also have our fair share of illegal infiltration.
If I meet an illegal immigrant in person, I can (and should) be compassionate, generous, helpful, and loving (à la Good Samaritan) without condoning their decisions, behavior, or religion. And I should guide them toward repentance if they are Christian, without taking it upon myself to make a citizen’s arrest. But I can simultaneously  hold a political position that illegals should be deported, that a wall should be erected to prevent them coming in illegally, and even that the country should limit how many foreigners are permitted in as refugees, tourists, students, business people, etc.
Discriminating based on religion does seem anti-American, (though not necessarily anti-Christian), and yet a certain degree of national profiling sounds necessary to me, albeit politically incorrect. Let’s face it, there aren’t many Danish or Nepalese or Zimbabwean terrorist cells declaring a jihad on the Western way of life. In a sense, if I were an ambassador of the US, I would have no problem saying to the ambassador of certain countries: “Hey, I know that many good people come from your country to ours, but many active terrorists do too, so when you get control of the latter, we’ll let more of you in here.” I would make a great one-term president!
Am I completely off base here or what?

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • I love it

  • Ira Pistos

    I doubt that the position could have been more clearly articulated than you did here.
    You’ve expressed a healthy Christian perspective on immigration in general and provided a nice nutshell analysis of immigration concerns in the US.

    • I appreciate that, Ira.

  • Lynn B.

    Now here’s an idea D.C. will like, “$500 a day tax on all tourists!”

    “I believe it is perfectly possible to hold a conservative political opinion of, say, limiting immigration… while concurrently pursuing an active compassion toward
    foreigners, that the Lord brings across my path personally…”

    So many people, both believers and unbelievers struggle to separate personal responsibility from government’s responsibility and of late, it seems all the world cites scripture out of context to support their position. I recently heard a professed believer argue that Socialism is the biblical order because the early church shared things in common. It seems we are destined to perish for lack of common sense…. and isn’t that a bottom-shelf definition of a reprobate mind… seeing everything upside down.

    I appreciate your comments only because I agree with them I recently took issue with another foreign pastor who criticized Trump’s position on this matter. I’m not an apologist for Donald Trump but I don’t think we need foreign pastor’s offering their two-bits on America’s immigration policies. Sorry!

    • Lynn B.

      Just one more comment on America’s present very continuous and difficult political position… Dr. John MacArthur’s and Dr. Albert Mohler’s counsel on how to vote in the 2016 presidential election were polar opposites… As believers, we tend to want absolute answers on every question based on scripture and sometimes it simply is not that easy.

      • Coming to grips with the complexities of any situation and trying to apply Scripture to it is the fun part of being a theologian!

    • Jason

      I think you nailed it. The social climate of today is very confused about personal and governmental responsibility.

      A person who holds that it’s not the government’s responsibility to make sure everyone is equally wealthy is seen as “uncaring” though they personally may be (and often are) involved in far more charity than those advocating for more government programs.

      It would seem, if the common perspective were accurate, you’re doing more by typing in all caps on social media about how someone should help people than you are by helping people.

      Sadly, people get more praise for less effort being a Facebook activist or protestor than organizing a church soup kitchen or job programs. Since plenty of people are far more concerned about their image than about their fellow man, it shouldn’t be surprising that this is the road more traveled.

      The most important thing is that those who know better stop giving credibility to all the social justice warriors by suggesting that they’re doing anything meaningful by creating unrest, and instead make sure we’re supporting the efforts in our local areas to care for those in need.

    • The glory of the internet is that anyone can offer their two-bits on anything. My goal here is to refine my own thinking and to “contribute a verse” as Thoreau would say.

  • Mike B

    Well said Clint. Not sure if you saw or heard Al Mohler’s comments on this topic from this morning, but certainly worth listening to (http://www.albertmohler.com/2017/01/30/briefing-01-30-17/). Many of these refugee’s are coming from countries that are unable to track their own citizens nor provide any documentation on who they are or what their associations are for the US to verify they are not terrorists. Ask most of Europe how that has worked out for them….

    • I just read Dr Mohler’s transcript. It was truly excellent, as always. Very insightful and I recommend everyone read it.

  • John Azar

    Enough is enough!

    My family & I are immigrants from thr Middle East, (had to wait 11 years to do so), we gave up our birth countries, left our families & friends there fleeing from the same people you are letting in the United States now.

    I am dealing with a refugee family at our church now & I know many immigrants. What always strucks me, is most have a sense of entitlement not gratefulness & appreciation, totally & intentionally overlooking God’s sovereignty in their circumstances.

    They fully take advantage of the system, milking it to the end, refusing to assimilate, bash our laws & way of life, blame our government for interfering in their countries forcing them to leave their peaceful, prosperous countries & the freedom they enjoyed under the regimes there to dreadfully come here in the first place. Oh, I don’t want to forget to blame the Jews while we are at it!

    How could you win? It is time to wake up!

    • I was also one who went through the extremely difficult and expensive route to gaining legal status to study in the US…twice. I am also very grateful that the country made it possible for me to come study there, and other South Africans I know were even cared for by the welfare system because they had genuine needs, and they were always very vocal about their admiration for and appreciation for the US system. I have little time for people who feel entitled or who take advantage of others.

  • imalulu

    Excellent perspective. One of my ongoing concerns with the “open borders” crowd is that the vast majority believe that it is an “American/Christian Duty” to “bring” aliens into our country then force the financial burden on the backs of taxpayers in an already overburdened,struggling economy. In my town,alone,the poverty rate has risen to 16% from 7.4% in 2006! This is unsustainable as a nation and deserves a very sober inward “look”,particularly by the Church, as many of us struggling Americans are under-employed, over taxed Christian brothers and sisters. We hold absolutely no ill-will to aliens,but are very clear-eyed about the financial reality,(and Christian requirement) of good stewardship and paying debts. To continue spending money we do not have adding more people without income into this country is not simply reckless,it is sinful!

    • As Mohler says in his excellent article on this, no country in the world can/does/should have an open border policy if they have any respect for the economic well-being and physical safety of their people.

  • Semone J. Simmons

    I also agree with your sentiments Clint. As I have been thinking and praying through the issue of illegal immigration, I keep coming up with responses that are very consistent with those you listed here. I am American born … African American female. It’s very helpful to see that I am thinking through this correctly.

    • Unless you and I are both wrong!!

  • Karl Heitman

    Clint, if I didn’t know any better, I’d conclude that you’re a proud, card-carrying member of the GOP!. 😉

    In all seriousness, IMHO, I think your short take is fair. I would only quibble with the way this was worded: “Discriminating based on religion does seem anti-American….” I shouldn’t be surprised that Christians in our camp don’t follow what the Trump Admin. publishes, but nevertheless there really is no excuse for all of the hype. Yesterday, Sunday, President Trump published this statement on social media, which clearly stated that the EO “is not about religion.” Here’s the full statement for your reading pleasure:

    Statement Regarding Recent Executive Order Concerning Extreme Vetting:

    “America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave.
    We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say. My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror. To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting.

    This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days.

    I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.”

    • Why confuse matters with the facts? Truthiness is its own reward!

      • 4Commencefiring4

        Um, I’m not sure “truthiness” is a word. Then again, I can remember when “impact” was only a noun and never a verb.

        • Truthiness was Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s word of the year in 2006. A close cousin to 2016″s “post truth”

  • alexguggenheim

    When people understand that “Islam” is not a religion but a broad social/geo/political/religious ideology they will quit equating it staying that it is merely bias against a eeligion, it is much more than that. Islam has an essential and specifically detailed social/geo/political prescription which is, by default, antagonistic to the American way of life.

    Yes, there are what some might call moderate Muslims but I’m reality, they still segregate, by majority, and isolate instead of integrate and much of this works against the fabric and cohesion of the American culture and way of life, one which is exceptional in many ways and in order to maintain its exceptionalism it requires those Coming to America to conform two our principles of freedom and plurality.

    Also, I would suggest a tutorial in the distinction of the two kingdoms to help the person

    Finally, we are obliged to take no one in as an American family when our own stability is at stake.

    Where oh where are the prosperous Muslim states to take in refugees? Saudi Arabia can take in, immediately, 3 million refugees.

    Life is tough. America is not the world’s soup kitchen and our charity along with our acceptance of immigrants and refugees over the last two hundred plus years has exceeded every single nation combined.

    (Not to the person asking, I say this in general) How dare anyone question America’s charity and concern and love for refugees simply because we need to take inventory and close the doors for a while, how dare they!?

    • bs

      Are there also “moderate” Christians? — those who don’t work against “the fabric and cohesion of the American culture and way of life”?

      • alexguggenheim

        There are many people who do not work antagonistically against our way of life. What is your point? Drive-by and ambiguous questions are never helpful.

        • bs

          Quite simple Alex. Substitute “Christian” for “Islam” or “Muslim” in your first two paragraphs. Would you accept that result? Isn’t the basis for Cripplegate actually to advocate that separatist thinking?

          • alexguggenheim

            Your suggestion that one can replace the other in the sentence demonstrates your misunderstanding about what Islam is versus what Christianity is.

          • Jason

            Dominion Theology is the closest thing that can be considered a “Christian” ideology that is similar to what Alex is talking about here, and even those who advocate it aren’t typically of the belief that they are required to bring the whole world to heel.

          • alexguggenheim

            Well, the question was about moderate XIans as if there is any real comparison to a moderate Muslim.

            Your point about Dominionism is a great help. Even they, who are closest to theocratic themes pale in comparison to the full social geo/political religious doctrine even moderate Muslims hold to which injure the fabric of our national cohesion.

          • bs

            Alex, I’m sorry you have misunderstood my question. I was questioning your basis for saying that immigrants from “Moslem” countries should be excluded because they did not integrate into your American society. This was your argument wasn’t it?
            My point was to ask: if this is a reason for the US administration’s action why Christians also should not be excluded — especially since many Christians also “segregate” and “isolate”. Isn’t a Christian mindset also “by default, antagonistic to the American way of life”?


          • alexguggenheim

            How you were framed to my proposition is not quite accurate but it does contain the truth that the integration is slower and far more difficult and many times not successful even with what we are calling moderate Muslims, a term that many so-called moderate Muslims don’t like by the way because it suggests that they do not fully follow the Quran and we do not want to now start discussing the ideaology of the Quran because then the red flags will go up about every 10 verses.

            As to your concern about any Christian that might segregate or isolate you still do not seem to want to include in your treatment of the whole matter the fact that Islam is a social geopolitical religious ideology while Christianity is not, even with the fringe groups. Thus, even those who isolate themselves do not do so to the frustration of are basic American principles.

            Secondly, let’s be clear, you are talking about Christians who already live here versus the importation of Islamic adherents who want to come here. There is a tremendous difference of those two things.

            But if any group identifying as Christian does rise up to the frustration of the cohesion of the American way of life our government has addressed those kinds of concerns within the Christian Community before as have Christians but if they were to arise up domestically we still don’t use that as a justification to blindly import people from other countries whose religion is the number one producer of terrorism around the world.

            Finally the Christian sects that want to come here, want to come here with the full intent of a thorough integration to the American way of life and we have no profile within those foreign Christian communities that do want to come here of radicalism. This really is simple math

          • I thought the basis for theCripplegate was for us to sell our books!

          • alexguggenheim


  • Austin Harrison

    Thanks for teasing out some of the issues regarding a complex subject.

    Here are a couple of observations:

    Much of the current rhetoric fails to observe any of the lessons history should have taught us…
    Pros and cons of a wall: The Maginot Line didn’t work very well for the French in keeping those out intent on getting in but giant infrastructure projects did the US economy a lot of good after the Great Depression.

    Cons and pros of Muslim immigrants: I am only just beginning to learn about Islam but, from what I am told, we should pause for thought when we consider the method of propagation of this faith over the centuries and how this violence is mandated in their scriptures. Any Muslim exploring those scriptures has to reach a point where s/he lives in denial of what is in the text and choose only to believe the nice bits, believe it all and radicalize or, leave the faith. However, allowing legitimate visa holders into the US who are Muslims presents a great opportunity for evangelism to people from nations where it is otherwise impossible to openly share the gospel. The Great Commission didn’t come with a caveat for it to be ok to hide in our houses if we’re in dis/agreement with current immigration policy or for us to only share the gospel with folks from a similar demographic to ourselves.

    • Good observations. When unbelievers come to us, that is easier than going to them. Missions is on our doorstep!

  • Don Smith

    Well said. I am an American who lived in South Africa for seven years (we love “Safrica” by the way). I maintained regular correspondence with Dept of Home Affairs during our time there. I never felt put upon for the vetting I had to go through. I think your response was spot on.

  • I think we have to be thankful as immigrants when we are treated well. If we bless those who are our enemies we might get a better situation.

  • Vinod Anand S

    Well said Clint and you are not off base.

    Coming from a country where we have seen many Islamic terrorist bombings happened in the past, I would strongly argue that its good for any country to be very careful in letting in people from volatile countries especially Middle East. We have seen worst serial bombings and casualties were much higher. Its happened multiple times. But unlike other countries, Muslims were also attacked in India and it happens to this day. So things like what happened in Cologne, Germany did not happen here. Also we have a considerable Muslim population for more than 300 years and many Muslims have contributed to our country during and after Independence. Their thinking might not be same as the one who moves to western culture. But even here they don’t follow the rule of the land. Government officials also are afraid of enforcing laws on them for the fear of violent backlash. Riots are normal thing for them. They rapidly resettle an area and convert the whole area into a Muslim area where other religious people never wish to live therafter. Nevertheless, the threat is always there since we have atleast two Muslim countries as our neighbours and our army’s primary task is to stop infiltration of terrorists in to our country from these countries because there are no proper walls in our borders.

    I see a country like a family. We are first responsible for our own kids. So I believe that a country’s first priorities are to the safety of its own citizens. Many Muslims from these countries emigrate to another country especially the western countries on the sole motive of changing these countries in to Muslim countries and imposing Sharia law. They don’t assimilate. Unlike other immigrants who want to live a better life. The issue never arises in the first place if all the refugees’ real motive is to live a better and peaceful life. That is the issue here and we clearly know its not the case. Letting them in to US without any questions asked is like rushing to a cliff with our eyes wide open. Its not doing any good for Germany or Sweden. Also letting them in as refugees won’t solve the problem, rather a stable environment in their own homeland will do much good.

    Compassion should be there, but not at the expense of our own people.

    I am all for what Trump is doing in this case.