No, Pete Buttigieg, Jesus Wasn’t A Refugee, And He Doesn’t Endorse Your Immigration Policies

No, Pete Buttigieg, Jesus Wasn’t A Refugee, And He Doesn’t Endorse Your Immigration Policies

The 'Jesus was a refugee' trope is tired and inaccurate. It's time for leftist politicians to stop exploiting Christmas by making false arguments about history.
Lew Jan Olowski
By

To profane a holy day, politicize it. Politicians’ profanity du jour is to exploit Christmas by making false arguments about immigration policy. Yet their rhetoric unintentionally supports the opposite points from what these politicians intend.

Consider Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana. On Christmas day, he said, “[D]ivinity on earth … came into this world not in riches but in poverty, not as a citizen but as a refugee.”

Buttigieg is wrong. Members of the holy family were not noncitizen refugees. Rather, they traveled to their home town of Bethlehem to register for a tax, or census. Their story relates to the $150 billion in cross-border remittances the United States loses each year when foreign residents send money abroad, and to the importance of counting citizens in the U.S. census — but it has nothing to do with refugee policy.

Afterward, the holy family fled to Egypt when King Herod threatened them. But then they returned to Israel when the threat subsided. Notwithstanding the fact that both Israel and Egypt were controlled by Rome at the time of Christ, meaning the holy family didn’t even cross a border, today, many refugees remain in their destination countries indefinitely rather than returning home and aiding reconstruction. Buttigieg probably did not intend to suggest modern-day refugees should go back where they came from.

Using Jesus to Condemn Immigration Policy

An even worse immigration policy analogy came from a California church that protested President Trump’s border detention policy by displaying the baby Jesus and his parents as “kids in cages.” In fact, real-life “kids in cages” started under President Barack Obama. Moreover, the holy family were not illegal immigrants caught while unlawfully crossing an international border, unlike those detained in places where the U.S. needs a border wall.

The general counsel of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office argued, “[O]n the night that we first came to the United States — Christmas Eve, 1979 — my mother, my brother and I were what President Trump would probably call illegal aliens.” Yet she also acknowledged that she and her family members were Jews fleeing Iran, a country that in 1979 succumbed to an antisemitic Islamist theocracy. Accordingly, Trump’s so-called Muslim ban privileged families such as hers because it “prioritize[d] refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution.”

Prioritizing religious minorities not only helps Jews from Iran or Christians from Syria, but it also helps Muslims suffering persecution in countries such as China and Myanmar, and even atheists in places like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

If the Brooklyn general counsel did her job, she would stop her office’s unconscionable and unconstitutional policy of treating illegal immigrants better than it treats U.S. citizens. Prosecutors give illegal immigrants special treatment to spare them from the federally mandated deportation of aggravated felons.

Leftist Politicians’ Revisionist History

Politicians played the same game on Thanksgiving. They described the Pilgrims as America’s first immigrants and reminded everyone that America is “a nation of immigrants.”

However, even those “first immigrants” enforced immigration law. As far back as 1645, Pilgrims at the Massachusetts Bay Colony excluded foreigners deemed likely to burden the colony instead of strengthening it. Their survival depended upon every member of society being productive.

Just as politicians profaned the holy days, they also exploited racism and slavery to make similar points about immigration policy. But even in those contexts, politicians’ examples support stricter immigration law enforcement, not more relaxed.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., argues immigration to the United States “is a right because we are standing on native land, and Latino people are descendants of native people.” Likewise, Buttigieg agreed when Rev. William Barber told him that “some of the people that are trying to come from Mexico here are coming back to land we stole.”

If the experience of Native Americans losing their land to European immigrants offers a lesson for modern-day immigration policy, that lesson means the opposite of what Ocasio-Cortez and Buttigieg think it means. Importantly, Barber also alluded to another historical example that justifies immigration law enforcement. He said, “The reason we took the land is because people wanted to keep their slaves.” True.

Spain brought the first African slaves to America 500 years ago. This year marks the 400-year anniversary of enslaved Africans reaching Virginia in 1619. The trans-Atlantic slave trade — human trafficking — is part of the history of immigration in America.

This trade was banned in 1807. Nonetheless, the last known shipment of African slaves occurred decades later during an illegal border crossing. A ship named The Clotilda brought a cargo of slaves from Africa to Alabama in 1860. One of them, Sally Smith, lived into the 20th century, dying in 1937.

Control Immigration to Protect Refugees, Prevent Slavery

Tragically, the international slave trade did not die with Sally Smith. It continues today, even in the most elite corners of the United States. Some foreign diplomats, for example, purchase slaves in foreign countries and bring them into the United States as servants.

More frequently, the slave trade operates across America’s under-defended southern border. Up to 20,000 people are trafficked into the United States each year. Many are forced to trade in sex, drugs, and other illicit activities.

Criminals find opportunity in the gaps of American immigration policy. They exploit inadequate manpower in immigration law-enforcement agencies. They benefit from activist lawsuits preventing the deportation of illegal immigrants. They run through the continued absence of a border wall. Politicians should focus public attention on these immigration crises year-round instead of quipping false platitudes about immigration during the holiday season.

Whether forced or voluntary, immigration into the United States must be controlled. Politicians must ensure border-enforcement measures are adequate and resourced, and that each immigrant into the United States strengthens our society instead of weakening it. A nation of immigrants should expect no less.

Lew J. Olowski is staff counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of illegal migration.

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