In this episode Kurt speaks to Jenna Ellis, law professor at Colorado Christian University, and Dr. Danny Caroll Rodas, Blanchard Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School, on President Trump’s recent immigration Executive Order. He also talks about some of the things we should know about the refugee vetting process and economic issues when thinking about immigration policy.
Listen to “Episode 31: Immigration” on Spreaker.
Mentioned in the show:
“Refugees are already vigorously vetted. I know because I vetted them.” By Natasha Hall in the Washington Post
Here is the video of economist Milton Friedman talking about how we can have either free immigration or robust welfare, but not both.
Kurt: Good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. In today’s episode we’re going to be talking about immigration and we’re going to hold the announcements for a little bit later because we’ve got an opportunity to hear right away here from someone who’s got a great perspective on everything that’s going down right now on the immigration debate in our country and she’ll be able to explain for us a little bit of the background of president Trump’s executive order on immigration and some of what’s been going on in the 9th Circuit Court which also has a nickname, the 9th Circus Court. It’s also called some other things and so now I’m here joined by Jenna Ellis who is a constitutional law and criminal defense attorney and law professor at Colorado Christian University where she directs the legal studies program. Jenna. Thanks for joining us on the show today.
Jenna: Thanks Kurt. Thanks for having me.
Kurt: Of course. So tell us a little bit about, so for our listener who may not know what’s been going on, the executive order it was basically a temporary ban from immigrants from seven countries. Do I have that right?
Jenna: Immigrants would be a little bit overbroad.
Kurt: Too broad.
Jenna: It was people who were coming in for any purpose, so in terms of just the executive order, there’s been a lot of really fake news if you will that has come on both directions and so from the broad perspective, people keep saying, executive orders are now fine with conservatives and it wasn’t with president Obama, but what people need to realize is with the executive branch, and action from the executive is an executive action by definition and an executive order is a more formalized version of that. The thing is Congress can make laws or legislative authority so it’s not the fact that they’re making laws, it’s not the fact that Trump is engaging in an executive action. What determines whether or not its constitutional is the substance of it and so what we have to analyze is the substance of the law that the legislature is passing constitutional vs. what Trump’s executive order is, is the substance of it constitutional and that becomes ultimately the question the 9th Circuit got wrong. They had a 29 page opinion that broadened his campaign statements, but the put burden back on the government to show that there was really a legitimate need for this order and it seems completely outside of the legal scope. All they had to do was say, “Okay. The substance of this, this temporary ban on a geographic area” so it wasn’t against Muslims and it wasn’t a ban. It was temporary against a geographic area.
Jenna: Which is completely constitutional and has nothing to do with religion. Is that acceptable? If we look at Article 1, section 8, of the Constitution, Congress has the power to generate the rules and criteria on immigration and naturalization. They delegated that authority legally and through…United States code that says when the president finds through his unilateral discretion, when he finds that it would be detrimental against the interests of the United States, he can put a restriction for the time that he sees fit, so clearly his executive order was completely fine.
Kurt: This is not the first time that a president has done something like this. Is that correct?
Jenna: Yeah. That’s correct. Obama did the same thing and there have been previous presidents that have utilized, this rule has been in place in Congress since the 1950’s so the fact that the left is getting so up and arms and the 9th Circuit thinks this is outside the scope of anything any president has ever done and Trump is dictating like an imperialist, it’s just not true and they’re generating fake hysteria.
Kurt: So maybe it’s just the timing of it because people see and they think the U.S. should bring in these refugees. Why do you think there is sort of so much drama here compared to when President Obama did it?
Jenna: Literally just because it’s a different administration.
Kurt: This is just partisan politics?
Jenna: Absolutely. If Obama was still the president and he proceeded as someone who cares about Muslims and cares about them and if he had a temporary hold the left would be fine with it, but President Trump they’re trying to make this about religion rather than geography and the left is completely shocked that president Trump is in office and so no matter what he does they’re going to create hysteria and they’re going to use this term constitutional and not use it appropriately. Whether or not something is constitutional to the left is whatever they say that the Constitution means and that was true for the 9th circuit in their opinion.
Kurt: Okay. So tell us what’s been going on because there was a court case which speaking of fast and speedy trial, this thing got a trial really quickly. Tell us what’s been going on with the 9th circuit and for those of us that don’t have a judicial background, what is the 9th circuit? What level of court is that?
Jenna: So it actually didn’t get a trial. What happened at the district court level which is just the first level, the state of Washington asks for a temporary injunction which is the legal term for saying courts need to enforce and have a temporary hold against Trump’s executive order and basically stop that from being enforced. The state of Washington federal judge issued that and said, yes, we’re going to temporarily hold that and say that that is no longer in effect and so then Trump’s attorney, the White House counsel appealed it to the 9th circuit which is the court of appeals, that’s the intermediary court, and then the highest level from that would be the Supreme Court. So the 9th circuit, it includes several states and several…are over a number of states, not just one. So the 9th circuit includes the state of Washington so it would appeal to there. Very quickly the court heard arguments and issued their opinion within a few days, and upheld that temporary injunction and said we agree that it was unconstitutional for several reasons that were not actually valid, but this is just another move by the left to form shock and to say we’re going to go to the 9th circuit which is highly liberal, 85% of their opinions are overturned by the Supreme Court because they’re an activist court. Had another state and filed it would have been in the 19th circuit, which the nominee Judge Gorsuch is from which has a much much better track record of actually applying the text of the law, not political partisanship, we probably would have had a different opinion so the left was strategic by trying to get this in front of the 9th circuit rather than a court which would have done the Constitutional thing and simply applied the law.
Kurt: Gotcha. It seems then that, correct me if I’m misunderstanding, so then this case will then be brought to the Supreme Court where because there are only eight justices right now that could end up tie which means the 9th circuit court ruling would stand. Is that right?
Jenna: That’s right and…before the Supreme Court and right now Trump’s White House counsel has not yet filed that petition in the Supreme Court. He can, or in what my opinion might be a better action is to simply redraft an executive order that would specifically state that this isn’t Muslim or a ban and kind of circumvent the 9th circuit that way by saying let that stay in place, but here’s an executive order that addresses what are the so-called flaws so we have a couple of different options here and he can certainly petition to the Supreme Court. They would hear and you’re exactly correct, that because we don’t yet have a ninth justice confirmed, if it was a four-four split then the 9th circuit’s decision would stay in place and that may create some bad precedent coming from the Supreme Court so that they may not be in terms of the future of the country, be the best presidential decision, but we’ll see what Trump decides.
Kurt: Okay. Interesting, that they might sort of reconsider, I mean if you will a do-over with another executive order, but that’s good. I mean, then personally my own beliefs, I felt like at least maybe in how some of the roll-out happened, to prohibit for example green card holders, that didn’t sit well with me because they already had a legal right to be here, so what would have been your thoughts on the executive order? Had you been in favor of it? Have you been entirely in favor of it? Some parts of it? What have been your thoughts?
Jenna: I think that there’s a different question on whether politically a person is in favor of it vs whether its constitutional and those lines have been completely blurred because whether or not something is constitutional, that’s a different question and that’s why we elect our representatives. President Trump may make some political policy decisions that people don’t like, but he can do that and so in terms of just looking at the text of the order, it was constitutional, so regardless of whether the individual…diverse opinion but that’s why we have representatives, that’s why we have the separation of powers, and Trump is in office and so I fully support the president doing constitutional things and we can debate all day if we agree with his policy decision and frankly been security briefed enough to know if this was particularly justified or not or what, but that’s not the standard. It’s when the president finds that there’s an action that would be detrimental to the interests of the United States and I think we need to trust our president, we need to trust our leader, when he makes those actions that are consistent with the constitutional framework and the laws flowing from that so rather or not we agree with it specifically I think it’s a good thing that president Trump has the interest and security of Americans in mind. That’s a good thing in my opinion that he’s willing to say America comes first and the security of our citizens come first. That’s what the civil government is designed to do. That’s what it should do so I’m wholly behind president Trump in terms of this particular action for those reasons.
Kurt: Gotcha. So basically personally you would sort of hold more an agnostic position that because you’re not privy to certain intelligence, we’re just not in a place where we can say whether we personally agree or disagree, but at the very least constitutional, he’s got the right to do that. Have I understood that?
Jenna: Sure, and I don’t know if I would describe it as agnostic but I would say it’s the same thing as when people ask me to comment on the current celebrity case, whether or not someone committed a crime and it’s a big deal in the media. I’m not the factfinder in the case. I only know what the media has said about that and that’s why we have juries, that’s why we have judges in those factfinding positions. In this case president Trump and his administration are the factfinders and we need to trust that rather than speculate on things that none of us are actually privy to.
Kurt: I see. That’s an interesting perspective. I know because there’s a lot of people out there who say we should take refugees and we shouldn’t have a temporary ban. It separates families, that sort of thing, but yeah maybe there’s a national security issue at stake here and so maybe we do need to put a pause while we reevaluate the system. Is that right? Have I understood that?
Jenna: Right. And that’s exactly the point is that this is temporary. This was for a maximum of six months or 180 days. This isn’t something that he’s saying we’re not taking in any refugees ever again. It’s just something where the civil government from a biblical and a truthful perspective, the proper role of government is to preserve and protect the rights of its citizens which include the right to life and liberty and that’s what the civil government is doing and when Trump cites national security as his rationale, which he doesn’t even have to, he has for any reason that he finds under the law and that’s constitutional, but when he’s saying there’s a national security interest in mind that should satisfy Americans to say this is temporary, let’s wait. Let’s see and let’s let the administration do that. That’s exactly the kind of discretion that the liberals gave to Obama in 2011 when he did the exact same thing for those seven countries so why we’re not trusting the people who are actually in the know, that’s problematic and that screams political more than it actually shows any legitimate constitutional analysis.
Kurt: Gotcha. Okay. I know we’re short on time here, so just sort of give me your closing thoughts here on all of this brouhaha. What do you think’s going to happen? Will there be an executive order that sort of clarifies these things? Are things just gonna be put to rest? What’s going to go on here?
Jenna: I think that from a very temporary perspective as far as what will happen in the next few days and weeks with this particular executive action, Trump has a couple of alternatives like we talked about, but for the future, his next four and possibly eight years, this raises significant questions over the legitimacy of our judicial branch. They’re not supposed to be political and this should concern every American who really understands our governmental structure and our framework and so I think there’s a lot to be educated on there. I published a piece in National Review yesterday actually that talks about that so I’d encourage people to go read that article. There’s a few others by the editorial board. David French, who’s another attorney who has written some really good articles on this point. Get educated and also understand where this one instance fits within the whole makeup of what we’re going to see over the next four years and don’t jump to conclusions that just because Trump’s actions are political that that by definition means they’re unconstitutional. We need to take a step back and actually analyze things appropriately and for anyone who wants to follow my page, I try to post my analysis on some of those things so follow me on social media, Twitter, Jennaellis.org and email me and ask me any questions of these types of things because I think it’s important that each person actually gets educated on our Constitution and our system of government and the one good thing out of all this is that the left is finally rediscovering the Constitution exists so maybe people will actually get educated through this.
Kurt: Maybe they just remembered after eight years.
Jenna: We’ll see how long the fog has lifted, but I’m actually really excited that more people on both sides are interested in reading the documents and figuring out what our government framework really looks like.
Kurt: Jenna. Thank you so much for joining us today and we’ve got to bring you on sometime in the future to talk about your book, The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution so thanks so much for coming on the show today.
Jenna: Thanks. I’d be happy to and I’ll speak with you soon.
Kurt: Great. Thanks. Take care. Bye bye.
Kurt: Alright. So that was Jenna Ellis. She is a constitutional law and criminal defense attorney, a law professor at Colorado Christian University where she directs the legal studies program and author of A Legal Basis For A Moral Constitution so go ahead and check out her book there on Amazon and we’ll have to bring her on the show to talk more about that someday. So we’re talking about immigration today, and you want to join us, if you want to have your voice heard, the number to call is 505-2STRIVE. That’s 505-278-7483. There are a number of ways you can get in touch with me. You can get us a call there at that number. You can also text so we’ve got this great texting program. Just text the word VERACITY to 555-888. So I got a text message from #1992, when this person heard that we were doing a show on immigration today, they wrote “You better not talk about any of all of that fake news stuff. Besides, you’re biased because your great-great-grandparents were immigrants.” I take it that this person is being sarcastic here, but to a certain extent there’s a little bit of truth in everything, so the point is how should we think about this stuff, about immigration. Surely as Jenna said, and even as this texter here clued in, there seems to be some “fake news”, that’s a big term recently, but basically we need to think critically and we need to research the facts and we need to interpret the facts clearly and to think about these things rationally while at the same time we need to recognize to the relational aspects to policy, that sometimes policy has a way of prohibiting family from being together. I know that there are a variety of perspectives on immigration so when I was spending a semester in Washington D.C. I did some work studying immigration and interestingly enough one of the things that I discovered was that immigration policies can span the partisan spectrum. What I mean by that is we might have our typical ways of talking about how a certain party believes this and a certain party believes that, but really, that’s not always the case. There are a number of GOP senators and congressmen for example that are very much in favor of having lots of immigration. There are some GOP senators that are against having lots of immigration in terms of legal immigration. There are some Democratic senators and congressmen that are very much in favor of legal immigration and lots of it, but you might be surprised to discover Democratic senators that are not in favor of lots of immigration. They prefer smaller levels of legal immigration. So really this debate spans the spectrums because you can’t quite fit folks into categories as easily as you might suspect and so it’s not necessarily a partisan thing here. I know Jenna mentioned, and I think to a certain degree she’s right in this instance, that there has been outrage because the president has a different letter by his name, but sadly you always get that. You always get that. We’ve got to try our best I think to treat the president fairly and we shouldn’t just criticize because they have a different letter next to their name. I was even speaking out on this to people, to my friends, when president Obama was in the White House, that we shouldn’t just attack him because he was a Democrat for instance. We shouldn’t attack a president just because he’s a Republican. We should stick to the policy points in terms of critiquing policy. We shouldn’t just critique for the sake of critiquing whenever we possibly could. We’ve got to pick our battles. So yes, so the immigration issue, it’s trickier than you might think and there are a lot of issues at stake. For example, do people have a right to free movement? Do people have a human right to go to the country they want? Some people think yes. Some people think no. Then there are certain realities too at stake that we deal with and some of those realities are that if a million immigrants showed up tomorrow, that could do a lot of damage to our economy and so we need to make sure that the economy remains stable so we can’t just take a million immigrants tomorrow. Then of course there are issues of national security where you’ve got to have a vetting process and so what does that vetting process entail? We’re coming up to a time for a break in our show, but let me just say this. I think that a lot of people have watched certain cable news networks. They’ve seen immigrants showing up in Germany by the trainful and they fear that something like that would happen here. After the break, I’m going to talk about how that idea is a misconception and then I’m also going to describe the vetting process for specifically refugees, for refugees. I’m not going to talk about each of the vetting processes because there are different types of visas out there, but specifically for people trying to come in on a refugee status. I’m going to talk about the process that that entails after this short break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Alright. Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. Before the break we had on Jenna Ellis who helped talk to us about the recent executive order by president Trump on immigration and sort of more of the specifics about that executive order, what’s been going on in the court system, and sort of what she thought might happen in the end here in terms of how it’s going to all pan out, so now I want to talk about though the refugee vetting process and the reason why I want to do that is because I perceive that a lot of people are unaware of the process that it takes to come into this country with refugee status and that’s a careful nuance. I’m not going to be talking about other standard ways of immigrating to the United States. I just want to talk about the refugee process that it takes because I perceive that a lot of people, they might be watching a cable news network, they might be reading news articles about what’s going on in Germany where immigrants are sort of wreaking havoc on some towns, issues of assimilation there, which is another thing I want to talk about later in the show. One of the things I am concerned with this is that there is this misconception here that the way that immigrants have showed up in Germany is the way they’ll show up here. Now when we’re talking about refugees, that’s not the way it works. In Germany when people showed up on the trainload, they were not invited, in the sense that they did not receive a formal invitation to enter the country. They just showed up and so the German government had to deal with that. In our country, you have to be formally invited to come here. So what does it take for that to happen? Well, it’s actually a process that takes a number of years, 1-3 years, and the way to apply for refugee status, you start by going to the United Nations, so you go through the office of the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees. That’s the first place you go to. Then, that office forwards your application to the U.S. State Department which prepares those applications for the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. citizenship and immigration services, so you’re talking three departments already, three agencies to be more precise and exact there and once all of that is done, then you’ve got to go through biometric and biographic checks done through various U.S. and other security databases so let me list for you some of the databases that a refugee, someone seeking refugee status, has to go through. Are you ready? Here we go.
At the state department you go through, The Counselor Lookout and Support System, The Counselor Consolidated Database, the Department of Homeland Security, You go through the TECS, which is a DHS security system, the DHS Automated Biometric Identification System, then through the National Counter-Terrorism Center and FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, you go through the Terrorist Identities Marked Environment, and you also go through the Terrorist Screening Database. At the FBI you go through the Extracts of the National Crime’s Information Center Wanted Persons file, immigration violator file, foreign fugitive file, violent gang and terrorist organization file, and then you also go through the integrated, automated fingerprint identification system. Through the Department of Defense you go through the Automated Biometric Identification System and then that’s all to say that this is just the U.S. stuff, you also when you give your application to the United Nations, you also go through other systems like Interpol systems and other European systems too.
So this is all to say that there is a robust screening process for vetting refugees and statistically speaking, it’s not the refugees who typically file for the refugee status because this process takes so long. If you were trying to game the system, to enter here in order to bring a terrorist attack, you would not use the refugee system. You would try to get a travel visa or you would try to get a student visa. You would try some other way because it’s easier and faster. Alright? So I think that’s really important to say and also when there are concerns about refugees, for the very few instances that this has occurred in the United States, and I recall one instance in Bowling Green, there was a terrorist plot which they discovered after the fact, these are people that have refugee status, but after the fact, were interested in bringing terror here. That is to say, this is home-grown terrorism. This term, home-grown. So home-grown terrorism is one thing that we need to be concerned with. In terms of the vetting process though, it’s a very good process and I don’t think that we should be fearful of that. Now that said, from what I have read online I think President Trump is trying to bring or add another system up to speed, up to sufficiency, and in order to do that I think that was one of the reasons for the temporary pause so at the very least I want to fight here the misconception that we’re going to have refugees showing up by the planeload because we do have this natural land barrier called an ocean so they can’t take a train here. I want to fight that misconception because we’ve got to get our facts straight. We’ve got to know what the process entails. We’ve got to know whether terrorists are even trying to use the refugee status to get here which by and large they are not. This is not the way. If you were trying to find potential terrorists you would not be doing it, I mean, yes, we’re already looking out for that through this process, through the refugee screening process, but that’s just not, I mean, this isn’t the way that they’re trying to enter the country so we need to be in that sense, spending our efforts elsewhere where we are successfully discovering these home-grown plots. That’s one misconception I want to fight. Now we have an interview here with Dr. Danny Caroll Rodas and I want to play this for you. It’s a perspective from a Biblical scholar, an Old Testament scholar, who’s going to bring us a slightly different tone, perspective, to the immigration debate and I’d love to get your thoughts on this too so here we’ll go ahead and play this for you.
Kurt: I’m joined here by Dr. Danny Caroll Rodas. He is the Blanchard Professor of Old Testament and the Wheaton College Graduate School. Danny. Thanks so much for joining me here on the show today. So you teach Old Testament there at Wheaton College and you have a certain perspective, not just personally but academically on immigration so tell us a little bit about your recent thoughts on the executive order by President Trump and also, I know this is going to be a big blanket, I’m throwing it out there, tell us your perspective on the ancient Israelites view of immigration.
Danny: Thanks. It’s great to be with you. You’ve asked me quite a lot there. Let me just get at it in pieces and then you can ask for further clarification.
Danny: Send me in another direction. First off I’m half Guatemalan so I have Rodas on my name and that’s part of how I get into this because the immigrant discussion in this country which has largely been until recently about people coming from south of the border, these are people that are part of my culture and my background, I go to a Hispanic church, things like that. I was raised Bilingual, bicultural, lived a number of years in Guatemala so all those things come together for my interest in immigration or immigrants and then in terms of being an Old Testament Prof, what got me into this biblically was wondering what the Old Testament would have to say about it so that’s kind of how I got into that. It’s important for your listeners to understand the difference between immigrants, refugees, and Asylees. Most people don’t parse that out. The refugees, those are coordinated through the United Nations and the way internationally it works is every country has a quota, so there is vetting by the United Nations and then there’s vetting by the particular country and then when they get here they come and get government help for housing, language learning and job training, but they come in and they’re kind of legal residents. The immigrant would be coming in on the particular visa system of the particular country or if there aren’t enough visas available which is the issue in this country, they’ll find kind of irregular means to come. Asylees are people who are seeking formally asylum, protection, and those are usually people fleeing from warzones, violence, those are very hard to get because you have to prove that you actually qualify, but those are the three categories. With the executive order recently, it wasn’t about immigration. It was about the refugees so that’s an important distinction, and it was refugees from particular countries. As I look at it, what’s driving the executive order are issues of national security. I can appreciate that. I think that’s something every country has to think through. The question then is, is this the best way to go about it? Another question would be how are these people being vetted? For instance, let me give you a question to think about. The people who are trying to get in as refugees from these areas are actually fleeing from the violence that we’re trying to prevent so that’s kind of the irony of it. They’re trying to run away from the very thing that we’re trying to not have happen on our soil so that’s the irony. They’re suffering from the very thing that we don’t want to suffer from, but the issue is a lot of these radicals who have been coming from this countries and so that’s the link that’s been being made. Again the question is is this the way best way to do it? Are they being vetted enough?
Kurt: They go through a process that takes years and I’m just not sure people realize to what extent and all the databases that they have to go through and background searches that specifically refugees have to go through.
Danny: I think part of the problem in this country is that we’re confusing this with immigration and so the vetting process for refugees like I said is coordinated with the United Nations so it’s a much more complex process and I don’t think people are aware of that. Again, I can appreciate the national security question. The follow-up question is is this the best way to do it? Are these the people you want to target? These kinds of things?
Kurt: And are terrorists even using the refugee status in order to gain access into the country?
Danny: The thing that would follow up on that is that vetting takes time so would a potential radical go through all these processes and wait all this time to get the proper vetting for the possibility of getting into the country? I would think that if you’re a radical this is too slow.
Kurt: Not the way to do it.
Danny: Yeah. Again I can appreciate the security concerns, the question is is this the best way to do it?
Kurt: It seems even just from my perspective that it’s misplaced and a lot of that comes from misinformation so I know I’ve got a buddy, he’s totally in support of this and he just doesn’t know, he doesn’t realize that there is this vetting system and part of me thinks that maybe he’s just watching a cable news network and he sees these images of Germany for instance where they take all these refugees, but they show up by the trainload and they show up uninvited and that’s not how our system works here in America. They aren’t just showing up by the planeload uninvited. The only way you can get in is if you are invited so we do have this process. People don’t realize that.
Danny: And what we would have that Germany and France doesn’t have is we have an ocean so it’s not like what you’re seeing in Europe where they’re arriving in such huge numbers and then they’re trying to vet them all at the same time. Some of those that have been radicalized in Western Europe have been in those countries for quite awhile so it’s not the immediate refugee fleeing a warzone. These are the descendants of the children, the sons of some refugees that grew up in France and have been disenfranchised and have been radicalized over time as they have grown up so it’s a very different scenario than women and children and grandmothers and granddads trying to flee the violence in Syria now, or from Yemen or something, it’s just a different population is what it is.
Kurt: Let’s move our focus a little bit to your academic work. You’ve published books, Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible. You’re the co-editor of Immigrant Neighbors Among Us: Immigration Across Theological Traditions. Tell us a little bit about your research of an Old Testament perspective on immigration and how then that applies to us today.
Danny: What we don’t get from the Old Testament for what we need to do today. It was an ancient society so that’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to see what kind of values does the Old Testament put to immigrants and once you being to scratch the surface what you begin to see is that the Old Testament was full of immigration and migration, whether it’s ancient Israel moving for food, going into Egypt looking for food, or being taken away which is now called academically, forced migration, which would be exiles under the Assyrians or the Babylonians. You have return migration from Persia in Ezra and Nehemiah, so you’ve got all these migrations going on even in Genesis with the patriarchs. As I talk to immigrants, those stories in the Bible resonate with their experience. The other thing that we see is that the Old Testament will give us this whole notion of human beings being of value and potential, the Genesis 1 image of God, so that orients the immigrant discussion so we’re not talking just about faceless mobs of people, but we’re actually talk about people who matter to God and as a Christian I would say Jesus dies for these people as He did for me and there’s this value of human beings. The thing that’s interesting and I’ll just close with this because I could go on for a long time for this, is there’s a lot of Old Testament legislation to deal with outsiders which is unique in the ancient world. Nothing like it in any other ancient law code and what you see is that God is providing safety nets within Israel to help these people. There’s expectations that they will learn the language and things like that, but you have things for food and for work, allowing them into cultural rituals, all these kinds of things that show the hospitality, that we can learn from these things and then I would say as Christians we can speak the values into the debate based on the Scriptures of our faith.
Kurt: Right. And it seems that there are alternative views as to how we should apply these principles today. For some people, it seems that we shouldn’t, that their society was just so different that we shouldn’t apply much of any those principles whereas then that are others that say we’ve got to be totally open borders because they had open borders. Which like you said, maybe wasn’t even necessarily the case. For example, when the Israelites are trying to go through Edom, they had to ask for permission, and so I guess even back then there was some sort of immigration laws and policies for these cultures and societies.
Danny: The thing is not to try to apply the specifics. It’s to get kind of an orientation. I call it kind of a moral compass, about how to deal with these people, and the thing about Edom, what you have is is Israel coming across as a people group moving through, they’re asking for permission to move through to get to somewhere else so it’s not the same thing as an immigrant coming across individually or something trying to get food or a job. In Israel what you have in those stories, what you have is a whole people group migrating to another place and that’s why some of these countries like Edom and Moab, they’re very suspicious because it’s not just…
Kurt: They want to make sure the people aren’t going to attack their people like it’s an armed invasion. Trojan horse.
Danny: They’re thinking what we would call national security because it’s a group of people and here you can understand it, but that’s not what we’re talking about when we talk about the southern border and it’s not really the refugee discussion either so you’ve got to be careful about how to coordinate the Old Testament with what’s going on today.
Kurt: Right. Danny. Thank you so much for joining us on the show today. I appreciate having your thoughts on this, a very difficult issue to understand, this hot topic, so thanks for your time.
Danny: Well thank you and I congratulate you with trying to grapple with things like this. We need to as Christians.
Kurt: Of course. Thanks.
Kurt: Alright. So that was my interview with Dr. Danny Caroll Rodas at the Wheaton College graduate school and it was fascinating to get his perspective on how we should look at the Old Testament because it’s not so simple as just quoting the Bible verse to welcome the refugee or the foreigner. There are other issues we need to think about and the Biblical text was written regarding a culture that is very different than our own today and so there are things that we’ve got to consider when we’re talking about immigration. I want to briefly close out talking about refugees by reading a little bit from an article here by a Natasha Hall and after I do this then I want to talk about an economic perspective on immigration. Here’s what Natasha Hall writes in this article and I’ll link this at the website. The article is called “Refugees Are Already Vigorously Vetted.” I Know Because I Vetted Them.” And here she writes that she has done numerous interviews, has had her career interviewing different refugees from twenty different nationalities in ten countries. She’s seeing countless refugees break down crying in the interview room because of the length and severity of the vetting process, the questions that have to be asked can be such a tough emotional experience for some people so here’s what she writes. She says “From those experiences and numerous security briefings, it’s clear that the authors of President Trump’s order are unfamiliar with the U.S. Immigration system. U.S. Laws international law, and the security threats facing our nation. She writes, “I can’t speak for all refugee and asylum officers, but I can say that those who have been working in immigration for years from opposite ends of the political spectrum are appalled by these new policies.” She obviously does not hold back there because she has been an immigration officer so she has experienced it and knows what it’s like and so her perspective is simply that there’s some ignorance here about the process of what it takes. So I hope in terms of refugees that we recognize that there is a process, a very strict and rigorous process for refugees to be interviewed and to be formally invited into the United States. Now again, this is not, I’m not making a statement about other types of immigration. I’m just talking about the refugees here so I’m just keeping the scope to that perspective. I just want to start small if you will before we would perhaps in future later episodes go into the larger perspective. I’m just sticking to that issue. Now let’s talk about sort of economic issues here. Bob here on Facebook writes, “When considering comprehensive immigration reform, don’t we have to consider that only immigrants are willing to take jobs others don’t want?” Well, that’s an interesting question. I’ve heard that used a lot of times. To a certain extent, yes, I mean we do recognize that immigrants do take jobs that we might not like, but look at this another way. If the economy is doing poorly, people would be willing to take jobs that they might not like to do in order to pay their bills. Now, one of the things we have to consider is the welfare state. Can someone make more money taking checks from the government, unemployment checks or whatever sorts of welfare programs there are, can people make more money doing that than working, say a minimum wage job? Actually the answer is, this by and large depends on your state in life, how many kids you have, etc. the answer is generally yes, and that’s one of the things that really concerns me, that there’s an incentive for people not to work, that people can live more comfortable lifestyles not working at all and they would make more money doing so. That’s one of the things we should be concerned about and so I would be also interested in looking at comprehensive welfare reform so I think we need to look at that as well. We need to look at the role of the federal government versus the states. There’s always this tug between welfare and immigration and Milton Friedman, there’s this great video, I’ll actually post this on the web site as well, where he talks about this, because you can’t have both. You can’t have a robust welfare state and lots of immigration, because of course then the system is unsustainable. What you need to have is one or the other. You need to have a free market system that’s pro-immigration, or a welfare system that disincentivizes immigration, so the question is which one do we want? I’m not too much of a fan of the strong welfare system. Of course, I think there should be safety nets in the system. That doesn’t necessarily mean the federal government should be responsible for that. That very well could just be a state issue. That’s one of the things we’ve got to consider. So Bob, there’s that, that yes, we do see immigrants taking jobs we might not otherwise have, but let’s look at what the incentives are, what the movies are, and when people really get to a certain position in life, would U.S. citizens get to a certain position in life where they say, “Okay. I’ll take that job I might not want, but it will pay the bills.”
Finally, let me close out with this thought here. When we’re talking about immigration reform, in the United States system, we are looking for immigrants that are highly educated, highly trained, so suppose they don’t have a lot of educational experience, but they’ve got a skill set that we’re looking for. There are some concerns when the United States incentivizes taking those people away from their own countries. Just think about it. What do you do if you begin to take a lot of the doctors away from a third world country? Who’s going to help the people that are sick? Yes, of course, there will be some doctors, but they might not be the best doctors, and some of those people need to be cared for. Now the U.S. compared to some other countries has a relatively small population and so what we are doing is in substance, we might be taking away some of the elite of the elite from those countries. Maybe, just maybe, we don’t want to do that. Maybe we should take other folks that aren’t necessarily the highest qualified or in terms of educational experience, or the highest skilled because we can train those people so that’s one of the key things to student visas. When you have lots of student visas, the idea here is that these people can come over for four years and do their undergraduate work or their graduate work for a couple of years in the hopes that they will then return to their home countries. Now sadly, that’s now always how it turns out. It’s not always the case that immigrants return and so some of the, and in fact, many of the illegal immigrants that we have are people that have overstayed their visas because they don’t want to leave the great country that we have here. That is one of the concerns, however, for those that do return, that’s what we like. Right? We like being able to train these people, but send them back to help their own people. There are a lot of issues here with immigration policy. It’s not so simple. Really, it’s not so black and white. There are a lot of gray areas when we’re talking about immigration. Of course, yes, we need to consider national security, but that is only a very small fraction of immigration policy. So there are other issues in immigration policy that we have to consider when we think about what we should believe about immigration policy, at least as it pertains to our very 21st century sensibilities here for those that live in the United States. Things can vary. For example, I was just thinking about New Zealand earlier this week, that country. They don’t have to worry about building a wall, because they’re just two islands. That’s New Zealand, so they don’t have to worry about that, so the only border that they have to defend, of course they have to keep a look out for the ships that might arrive, but the airports, but they don’t have that concern, so really there are issues that countries deal with differently because they’re in different situations so there’s not necessarily, this is something to consider as well, immigration policy doesn’t necessarily transcend different countries. It can be relative to the nation’s interests, and speaking of those interests, there’s assimilation that you’ve got consider and assimilation is something that’s often not just spoken about.
Assimilation is basically what do you do when the immigrant comes here? How do they become an American? How do they join our culture? There are people who think we should have a melting pot which is where there is assimilation. There are people that think that we should just have a garden salad if you will where people retain their own cultures. I think that one leads to some problems, but the fact of it is that we’re not talking about assimilation issues. We’re not talking about how do you educate immigrants about American history, American government. If these people end up becoming U.S. citizens, they should know about our system of government and the interests that we have, the things we want to protect like the Constitution. These are things that we should be concerned about but that people really aren’t talking about so maybe to a certain degree we’ve got to include that topic in the debate and I wish we did that more frequently even in say the recent presidential debates that occurred all throughout last year during the primaries and such. Assimilation is hardly something that gets brought up, but it’s very important I think in terms of having immigrants really when they want to become U.S. Citizens have them become Americans, and even if they don’t want to become citizens, if they just want permanent legal residence, what does it mean for them to sort of be an acting American here? Sort of a functional American, for them to enjoy our society, to appreciate the things we appreciate? Those are the things we’ve also got to consider.
Of course, there’s never enough time in the show for us to cover a lot of these topics. I’d love to hear what you think about all of this. Different ways to get in touch with me. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter, not just personally, but the show, Veracity Hill, and you can email me, Kurt@veracityhill.com, if you want to send your thoughts that way you can do so through the website, or you can leave me a message throughout the week on our call-in line. Again that number is 505-2STRIVE. That’s 505-278-7483. So that does it for our show today. I am grateful for the continued support of our patrons. Those are folks that just chip in a few bucks a month and we’re looking to actually raise some more money for the show. We want to be able to pay someone to help us with social media. This person has been helping out so far and we want to be able to show them that and so if you could, and amongst the other things are costs that we have for doing the show, we’d love to get your support. If you want to chip in just ten or twenty bucks a month to help us out, your donations would be tax-deductible because Veracity Hill’s part of the Defenders Media Alliance which is a 501c3 organization and so we’d love to get your monthly support. That’s really key is those monthly donors. I’m also thankful for the partnership of our sponsors. Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Evolution 2.0, and Traffic Buffet. Thank you to the tech team. Chris, we’ve been working on a few different things, a new program for livestreaming so we’re still figuring things out there. Thank you to our guests today, Jenna Ellis, and Dr. Danny Caroll Rodas, and I want to thank you for your devotion to listening to this show, for dealing with these difficult issues, for thinking about how is it that we should think about an issue like immigration or atheism, or whatever topic that we might be thinking about so thank you for joining along with me as we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
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