Over the course of his first three years in office, President Donald Trump and the members of his administration have drastically reduced the number of refugees admitted to the United States. Trump’s policies have aimed to prioritize the protection of Christian refugees at the expense of people who observe other religious traditions — but even Christians fleeing to the United States have been accepted in reduced numbers throughout his term.
In spite of the harshness of Trump’s restrictive refugee policies, this approach has found support among many conservatives. The first three years of his administration have created a political environment in which the United States’ willingness to accept refugees, once largely a bipartisan issue, has become conflated with immigration debates and hyperpolarized as a result — Trump’s broad vilification of people seeking entrance to the United States has led some conservatives to support his restrictions on refugees as well.
These trends are perhaps most clearly embodied by Vice President Mike Pence, who has strongly supported the administration’s policies that disfavor non-Christian refugees and who, as governor of Indiana, took executive action that heavily restricted the admission of refugees into the state. In doing so, Pence, a publicly devout Christian, has blatantly ignored biblical mandates that clearly favor accepting and protecting refugees, and his complicity in a program that favors Christian refugees over others is inconsistent with the biblical value of accepting strangers. In sharp contrast with the behavior of this administration, many central biblical texts strongly support far more generous treatment of refugees.
One of the best-known biblical stories, and one that powerfully lends itself to pro-refugee advocacy, is the Book of Exodus’ portrayal of the escape of the Israelites from Egypt. After generations of enslavement and persecution there, God employs the prophet Moses in securing their release from the oppressive Pharaoh and then guides them out of the land.
An especially telling moment comes early in the book, as God observes the plight of the Israelites: “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt … I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to … a land filled with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:7-8). Later, God reminds the Israelites, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19).
It doesn’t require deep analysis to see the obvious: The biblical God is not only heavily invested in the welfare of refugees, but also actively advocates for and assists them directly by guiding them out of their state of oppression. Those aiming to model their own lives after this God should keep in mind the favorable status that the Bible grants to refugees — including those who are not Christian.
Christians would also do well to note the words of Jesus himself and Apostle Paul. In describing the inauguration of the Kingdom of God, Jesus claims that he will tell those who gain entrance into heaven, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35), a clear statement of the Gospels’ pro-refugee stance. In his letter to the Romans, Paul likewise demands that his followers “extend hospitality to strangers” (Romans 12:13).
The Bible may be filled with contradictions, but on the topic of treatment of refugees, the biblical text is remarkably straightforward and consistent in both explicit commands and general sentiments. Pence, who has been known to describe himself as a “Christian, a conservative and a Republican — in that order,” seems not to understand what a consistent Christian view of refugees should actually look like. His outspokenness as a Christian makes his history of implementing and supporting restrictive refugee policies blatantly hypocritical.
We should not lose sight of the fact that, even in recent months, Trump has taken executive action to continue lowering the number of refugees the United States will accept in coming years. These actions will endanger the lives of thousands of people who might have found safety in previous administrations.
If the conservative Christians who form Trump’s electoral base truly feel invested in promoting policies that reflect biblical morality, they should reject this blatantly unbiblical stance that the administration has taken. Trump’s policies have put lives at risk — in light of these stakes, a serious reevaluation of how refugees should be treated is absolutely imperative.
Haley Talati is a senior in the College. Between the Lines appears online every other Wednesday.