In one of his many recent tweet storms, President Trump boasted that he had once and for all won the war on Christmas:
“I am proud to have led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!”
We’re here to say, “Not so much, Mr. President. Not so much.” In fact, if you’re looking for this year’s war on Christmas, you’ll find it in our 45th president’s latest immigration policy.
Allow us to refresh: Christ was once a migrant child; his Palestinian parents fled persecution. ”Merry Christmas” isn’t just a phrase; there’s a moral lesson to be gleaned. Key words include, but aren’t limited to: “compassion,” “mercy,” and “understanding.”
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But President Trump’s latest anti-immigration policy makes it apparent that he believes the Christmas story is one best left in the abstract. When it comes to present-day desperate and displaced people, Trump has made it clear there’s no room at the inn.
For the second consecutive fiscal year, the Trump Administration has slashed the 40-year old Refugee Resettlement Program. Last year he capped the number of refugees allowed to enter the U.S. at 45,000; this year, he lowered it to 30,000.
Trump’s take on refugees is a far cry from those of former presidents, including President Ronald Reagan who saw the Refugee Resettlement Program as a lantern to the world’s most vulnerable. Reagan set the cap at over 200,000; the last year President Obama was in office, he allowed over 110,000 refugees to enter the country.
U.S. Congressman Derek Kilmer hit the bullseye this week when he told the TNT, “Great nations lead in the face of humanitarian crises. By reducing the cap on the number of refugees allowed into America for the last two years, the president has retreated from America’s position as world leader.”
Indeed, Trump’s anti-immigration stance isn’t putting America’s interests first, it’s putting America’s fears first. And stoking those fears only allows extremists on both sides of the immigration debate to drown out the voices willing to meet on a bipartisan compromise.
And then there’s the wall, the “damn wall” as it’s known to many.
Trump rejected a spending proposal that included $1.6 billion for border security improvements and demanded the Senate pass a budget that included $5 billion for 215 miles of barrier between the United States and Mexico. When Democratic senators refused to capitulate, a political game of chicken ensued, and here we are in the midst of a partial government shutdown.
Merry Christmas? Not for federal workers.
A wall impedes illegal entry, but it does nothing to address the migrant crisis. As Rep. Kilmer stated, “We must work with our allies around the world to tackle the challenges driving people to seek refuge here.”
Trump’s 2016 travel ban is the opposite of the diplomatic finesse Kilmer references. Because of the travel ban, refugees from the most troubled parts of the world, places like Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and Kenya are unlikely to find mercy here.
But even if the other Washington isn’t so hospitable to refugees, it’s nice to know this Washington is. Ours is among the top ten states most receptive to refugees. In 2018, Washington received about 1,800 – most came from Ukraine and Afghanistan.
Last year, the Tacoma Community House served more than 3,500 people from more than 100 countries. English language and basic education classes, as well as tutoring and job training, got immigrants on their feet quickly.
Liz Dunbar, the retiring director of Tacoma Community House, said Trump’s latest cap on refugees is disappointing, but it won’t slow progress on the new $13 million Tacoma Community House facility projected to open in the fall of 2019.
At least we can say the heart of Christmas is alive and well here in the South Sound.