Yesterday in a meeting about immigration reform, President Donald Trump questioned why he should accept immigrants from “s—hole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador, and nations in Africa, instead of places like Norway.
Even in the constant onslaught of news and tweets, this particular presidential remark contains several issues that are important for us to consider as Christians.
For 15 years I’ve lived in or traveled to Haiti as a development worker. On the eighth anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake and in the midst of the ongoing congressional debate over immigration reform, here are six important points about the president’s comment:
1. He is naming the fact that life is hard in these countries.
Daily life in Haiti is for many people a struggle to survive—even without the crises of violence, political upheaval, earthquakes, hurricanes, and mudslides. To add some specifics, recently a detailed report came out on an alleged massacre by Haitian police officers near an Evangelical Bible School that I’ve visited many times. On this earthquake anniversary, I’m thinking about friends like the motorcycle taxi driver I’ve ridden with hundreds of times. He lost siblings and dozens in his church who were crushed when the building collapsed during a prayer service.
In Haiti, over 200,000 children are trapped in forced servitude, about a third of women report incidents of domestic violence, and families struggle to find good options for education. Yes, life is hard. Though the president put it in a crass way, we can pause to ensure we haven’t become numb to suffering of our brothers and sisters.
2. There’s a complex history behind the poverty and state of development in places like Haiti.
While Trump’s brief comment doesn’t address how these countries came to their current state, we know that many external, exploitative factors influence conditions that make some countries poor and others rich.
For example, this thread of tweets touches on how the slave trade, colonialism, and policies put in place by the United States and the United Nations have shaped Haiti’s history. Author Jonathan Katz insists that it’s not enough to note that countries like Haiti are poor while the US and Norway are rich; we must also ask ourselves why.
When we take these historical elements into account, we’re rightly led toward repentance, instead of scorn. We can grow in self-awareness that leads to respectful and helpful partnering, instead of stumbling in with a “white savior complex” where we’re vulnerable to hurting instead of actually helping.
3. It implies the narrative that immigrants from certain countries take from American life rather than contributing to it.
This assumption is important to call out because it has been repeatedly proven false. Economic studies show the positive contributions of, say, the Salvadoran community or Haitian community, who are younger than the immigrant population overall and more likely to be a part of the workforce. Nigerian immigrants are highly educated. Immigrants have helped to spur innovation, economic development, and growth within the US.
Economist Michael Clemens has also shown that one of the most effective ways we can help people in poor countries is by letting immigrants come to the US. The immigrants benefit from the opportunities, the people in their home countries benefit from the remittances they are able to send home, and we in the US benefit from their contributions as hard-working, value-creating, tax-paying residents. This is true of the Haitians I know living in South Florida, and it’s the truer narrative about immigrants in general: They’re contributors to our country.
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Source: Christianity Today