Refugees and Local Politics
I live in Southeast Michigan/MetroDetroit. This region has a very diverse population, in large part due to the auto industry. As many know, Dearborn is home to a large Arab-American population. Some are Muslim and some are Christian. There are Syrian, Egyptian, Chaldean (Iraqi), Assyrian (Iraqi), Lebannese, Coptic Christian communities and Muslim communities, both Sunni and Shia. It should come as no surprise that this region would be a natural place for Iraqi and Syrian refugees to come. They many have family, and even if they don't have family, there are communities that share their religions, cultures, and languages. Having lived in the area for more than eight years I know that my life has been enriched by my encounters with folks who have roots in these regions (along with quite a number of other regions).
Unfortunately, there's a political climate that is increasingly unwelcoming. One local community in my county has voted to reject any settling of refugees. The response of one of the Township Commissioners was that they needed "to protect what is ours." I guess that's their right but it saddens me that we would turn our backs on people fleeing violence to "protect what is ours." At one level it runs counter to our national heritage (though nativism has had a long history), and as person of faith it runs counter to the call to love one's neighbors and to welcome the stranger (both biblical principles).
Of couirse, it's not just this one community. The current County Executive, who has a history of making racially insensitive statements, has taken the lead in resisting resettlement efforts in the county -- going so far as to file suit against the Federal Government. Frankly, I'm embarrassed by this action.
Why are we afraid of the refugee? As far as I know the Federal Government does a pretty decent job vetting refugees. Nothing is fool - proof, of course, but shouldn't we extend a bit of grace to those who are afflicted? Indeed, and can we refrain from using refugees as political fodder in order to retain power? I close with these words from the Prophet Jeremiah to the king of Judah:
The Lord proclaims: Do what is just and right; rescue the oppressed from the power of the oppressor. Don’t exploit or mistreat the refugee, the orphan, and the widow. Don’t spill the blood of the innocent in this place. (Jeremiah 22:3 Common English Bible)