Imagine: a small and impoverished family are fleeing for their lives, desperate to save their small child from a brutal dictator’s rampage. They seek refuge in a distant land, but they have no immigration papers.
Today, that describes thousands of Syrian families trying to escape barrel bombs and chemical weapons. Their future may depend on the fate of Donald Trump’s second travel ban, currently being debated before the 9th Circuit Court.
Two thousand years ago, it described Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
In the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, King Herod ordered what is sometimes referred to as the Massacre of the Innocents — a decree to kill all the infant males in the kingdom to wipe out newborn baby Jesus. An angel appeared in Joseph’s dream and told him to flee to Egypt with his wife Mary and baby Jesus, and escape the Roman death squads.
If Jesus came from Syria to the United States today, and President Trump won his court case on the immigration ban, Jesus likely would be sent back to a despot on a killing spree.
Following Assad’s sarin gas attack on civilians, Trump ordered missiles fired at a Syrian air base. During six years of civil war, Bashir Al-Assad has been utterly brutal to the Syrian people, with help from Russia and Iran. If Trump really cares about attacks on Syrian civilians, he should welcome them to the United States as refugees.
Under Trump’s immigration ban, which courts previously found to be discriminatory and unlawful leading to the current case in appeals court, the maximum number of refugees allowed into the United States annually would be cut by more than half, from 110,000 to 50,000. Admission of Syrian refugees would be suspended pending further action.
America was founded as a land of opportunity for immigrants and a shelter for refugees. Our first president, George Washington, said, “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions..."
The teachings of the Bible also support embracing refugees.
Deuteronomy 10:18-19 reads, “(God) defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners...”
And in the 25th Chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “I was a stranger, and you invited me in."
In context of the larger chapter, Jesus was explaining the terms by which people of faith will be judged. Christ understood the plight of immigrants and refugees from firsthand experience.
Some will argue Trump’s three-month ban on immigrants and refugees is necessary to protect people in this country from terrorism. The facts would argue otherwise.
A study by the conservative CATO institute found at the time of its publication no individual accepted to the U.S. as a refugee had been implicated in a major fatal terrorist attack since the 1980 Refugee Act became law and established procedures for screening and accepting refugees. After the study was published, in September 2016, a Somalian refugee injured 13 people in Ohio, and the incident was investigated as a terrorist attack. No one died in that instance.
Christians and American patriots must demand that President Trump end his pursuit of the immigration ban and act now to help Syrian refugees.
Isaac Wright is a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and works in campaign and public affairs strategy. The opinions are the writer's.