It’s clear that after the recent government shutdown, many people feel very passionately about the wall issue. But as it stands, the arguments are flying fast and hard, with little evidence and financial solvency to support them. I offer some thoughts about why I do not support the wall, based on my decade plus of experience working with immigrants and within the fractured immigration system. I come at this from a Christian perspective, as well as what I believe a pragmatic political approach to this issue.
There is a problem at the border. The discussion is not about “if” there is a problem, but what the problem is. For some, the problem is “those people” and what immigrants or people who are from another nation represent. For other drugs and terrorism are top of mind. For others, still, violent and petty crime is a constant concern. And for some, people who I consider the uninformed, all these issues are conflated together. Based on the perspective of the problem, different solutions emerge.
For starters, those who are at our borders seeking asylum are doing it in accordance with U.S. law. From my professional and personal experience working with the refugees on both sides of the border, refugees are simply looking for just resolution to their need. Their needs vary but many are parents of slain children; brothers and sisters of murdered loved ones; victims of torture; or destitute and poor with little hope to protect or feed their families. They are like Moses’ mother who had to make an impossible choice to put him in a river or risk his death. A wall forces people to take increasingly dangerous risks to gain access to the relief they desire and does not stop people in desperation from risking it all to get in. Some simple changes would create a more efficient and effective immigration system, and make the U.S. safe.
For example, we could offer a one-year humanitarian visa for asylum seekers after vetting. USCIS could then allow them to apply for a work permit after one year if they stay out of trouble. This visa could be renewable for up to 5 years, with no public benefits made available during this “temporary status.” And then allow them to apply for residency after 5 years. Currently, undocumented immigrants pay taxes with ITIN numbers but do not receive means-tested benefits or Social Security. So, the U.S. actually benefits from their tax revenue. Ideally, if we could devote more resources to providing informational sessions to immigrants at the border, immigration staff processing applications, and judges reviewing cases, I believe the number of illegal crossings would drastically reduce.
Another cost-effective way to reduce terrorism and drug smuggling is to enforce entry and exit visas. To date, all terrorist activities committed by immigrants were committed by individuals who obtained legal entrance to the U.S. No attacks have been committed by individuals who crossed a border illegally. Also, concerning illicit drugs, numerous reports state that the vast amount of drugs seized in the U.S. come in through legal ports of entry at the Northern and Southern borders. So, if we could focus our efforts on improving searches at legal ports of entry and visa tracking, then we could stop the bad apples from wreaking havoc and ensure immigrants with legitimate claims are seen, heard and supported.
I am interested in lowering the debt, and that is why I am against much of wasteful spending being proposed by the White House. The wall is not the optimal solution. Currently, we spend millions of dollars on Keeping out individuals who not only need refuge but could contribute to making our country even better. From a Christian perspective, I believe that this immigration issue is a humanitarian one that demands a more compassionate and cost-effective response. I hope we as a nation, choose this alternative.
John J Faison
I have been studying immigration and the Bible for many years and have learned that the Bible has a lot to say about it. In fact it is a central them in the Scripture and the message of the Gospel has historically been carried on the backs of immigrants.