A Response to the Administration’s Decision on Relationships by The Rev’d Canon E. Mark Stevenson
Director, Episcopal Migration Ministries
June 30, 2017
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court issued a decision regarding the litigation around the president’s executive order banning entry into this country of certain foreign nationals and halting for a time the welcoming of refugees. The Court seemed to stake out a position that the president has the right to do these two things but that he has to take a number of things – particularly relationships – into account when implementing policy. I wrote at the time that we would need to wait for the logistics to be sorted. Little did I expect that the sorting would become a tool to tear apart relationships, and to further propagate a false narrative about people who have fled violence and persecution.
The Court set as a standard regarding allowable entry the idea of the need for an existing bona fide relationship already within the U.S. They gave the obvious example of family, but also cited relationships with entities that are formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course of events. While I may disagree with their decision in other parts, I did at least take comfort in knowing that the highest court in the land recognized that there are real people, real lives, real relationships at stake here.
At the core of my Christian faith is the concept that relationships matter. I understand that God is perfect relationship, a Trinity of Persons. I understand that because we human beings fail in our relationships with each other and with God, God takes the steps necessary to repair those relationships and calls us to do the same. Our creator goes so far as to take on flesh in the person of Jesus to give us an example of how to treat each other; of how to sacrifice for each other; and most importantly, how to love each other no matter what. Yes, relationships matter.
We have come to learn in the past day that the administration has chosen to recognize a different standard. No less than the U.S. government itself has an existing, formal, documented relationship with thousands upon thousands of refugees who have already undergone extensive vetting to come to our shores, vetting far more thorough and extreme than faced by any other group or individual. Having passed that vetting, these refugees were given assurances of being welcomed by resettlement agencies to a new life. And yet, the administration has said that this relationship does not matter, that the word given by our government does not matter.
The administration has also decided that the relationships of grandparents and grandchildren do not matter. I have grandchildren. No one can tell me that those relationships do not matter. If you never believe anything else that I say, believe me in this – if they were in harm’s way I would move mountains to save them.
The administration has chosen an overly restrictive path that lacks compassion and disregards relationships. It need not have done so.