Recently, it's come to my attention that there seems to be a bit of hypocrisy floating around certain political circles. I think that just about all of us are aware that there is a major refugee crisis happening right now, and much of it is centered around Syrian refugees. I'm not here to argue whether or not we should admit Syrian refugees to the United States (refugees, I might add, that have been clearing out of their own war-torn country for about four years now; this isn't some recent trend.) If you have read the Constitution and the Bible, then you will know my position on this issue. Rather, I'm here to talk about the difference in the way we are talking about Syrians and the way we talk about other people who try to come into the United States.
Several friends and acquaintances are upset at the moment because they feel that the United States government is showing favoritism to refugees of the Muslim faith over Christians. They point out the fact that Muslim Syrians being accepted as refugees in the US greatly outnumber Christians from the same country. They have apparently not stopped to think that this is mostly because the number of Muslim Syrians is much, much greater than the number of Christian Syrians. That's just math. It's like being mad that the US isn't welcoming enough white people from Africa. Sure, they're there, but they're definitely in the minority. So after they move past this article, they start talking about the Christian "refugees" who are facing deportation from the United States, as if President Obama personally selected them for deportation to make room for more Muslims. They are angry because the President is apparently not doing enough to protect these refugees. It must be because they are Christian, right? And he likes Muslims better? False. These Christians are facing deportation because they didn't follow the rules. The group that has been in the "news" (i.e. angry blogs) the most often recently is comprised of 27 Iraqi Christians who illegally entered the United States through our border with Mexico. They are, by definition, illegal immigrants. Perhaps they chose to enter the United States in this manner because the process for being legally declared a refugee and allowed into the US is long, tedious, and complicated; it takes about 18 months of proof and paperwork. It's tough. Ironically, many of the same people who are crying foul over this incident are part of the same group who are under the impression (the false impression, I might add) that it is a very easy task to become legally declared a refugee. They've been saying that the process is too easy for over a week now.
I was thinking about this today, and how it was interesting that many of the same friends and family who believe that these Iraqi immigrants should *not* be deported have expressed the exact opposite about immigrants from Central and South America this past year. Early in the year, there was another large influx of refugees, this time from Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua (among a few other places) and they were met with hostility and hatred. Hatred that was shrouded with legalese and rhetoric about following the rules. If they just followed the rules, they could stay! But that's obviously not the case, because we're willing to make exceptions for the Iraqis who sought the same path of dubious legality in order to enter the country. Could it be a religious issue? I know there are a lot of people who would prefer to have a religious test for immigrants (again, if you read the Constitution and the Bible, you will know my stance on this issue.) So perhaps these individuals would allow the Iraqis to stay because they are Christian? But statistically speaking, all of the immigrants from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and other neighboring countries should be Christian. Catholic or Protestant, these are Christian nations. You'd be extremely hard pressed to find an individual among them who has not been baptized into their faith.
So maybe we are thinking about the situations these people are facing in their home countries. Considering their backgrounds and circumstances when deciding if they should be allowed to stay. Iraqi Christians are threatened with persecution for their religious preferences. There is a threat of violence against them. But why are people coming over from Central and South American countries? Here are some recent headlines that might give you a clue:
A Woman Is Murdered Every Sixteen Hours In Honduras
Murder in Honduras (this one's about ethnic cleansing)
Behind the Fight to Stem Violence and Protect Women In Honduras
("In 2009, a coup brought down the elected president of Honduras. For the past six years, instability, poverty, and gang-and drug-related crime have plagued this Central American nation of eight million people. In 2012, Honduras had the most murders per capita of any country in the world – 90 homicides for every 100 thousand people.")
Guatemala Vigil Honors Victims of Gender Violence and Femicide
Guatemalan Groups Condemn Deteriorization of Women's Rights
("Between January and October this year, 588 women were killed, according to the Grupo Guatemalteco de Mujeres.")
Guatemala's Dead Baby Shame
("Corpses exhumed and thrown away 'like rubbish' as dirt-poor parents can't afford the $24 rent.")
Murder Rate in El Salvador Increases Sharply
Maryknoll Sisters to Honor 4 Missionaries Killed in El Salvador
Death Squads in El Salvador Kill, Face No Investigation
"Why Such Violent Treatment of These Women in El Salvador?"
In Mexico, Fear as Victims Vanish At Hands of Police
Mexico's Bloodbath That Won't Stop
And with that, I can't read anymore. I have to limit the amount of time I spend reading the news these days because it makes me upset. I don't want to close my eyes to what's going on in the world; I shouldn't- it's not right.
But I don't understand why some lives are worth more than others.
I don't understand why everyone posted the French flag when Paris was attacked, but only a handful of us posted the Kenyan flag back in April.
I don't understand why Christian Iraqis are given the benefit of the doubt and Christian Mexicans aren't.
I don't understand why I am the only person I know crying about Guatemalan babies being thrown in the trash. But maybe I'm the only one who knows. And I don't know why that is, either.
I know that I'm not going to change anyone's mind on immigration policy or current events. But can I make a plea for your sense of humanity? If we can take a moment to think about what Christians in Iraq are going through and why they might want to come here, can we take a moment and think about why Mexicans or Guatemalans might want to come here? And can we stop calling people "illegals?" Because yes, they broke a law, but maybe they had a reason for doing so. Jean Valjean stole bread because he was starving, but it's not right to just think of him as a thief; he was so much more than that. He was a caring, loving human being, redeemed and forgiven, seeking a second chance at life. He was fair and just and a loving father. Maybe some of the people crossing over the border into the United States can identify with those labels, too, and not just the one that calls out the bad thing their circumstances led them to decide to do. Every human life has value and worth, is sacred and precious to God. He sees so much more than the one thing (or lots of things) that we've done wrong. Can't we take a moment to try to do that for others, too?