Immigration and the Changing Face of America at #AARSBL16

Immigration and the Changing Face of America at #AARSBL16 November 21, 2016

I attended a Council for Foreign Relations lunch that was simply fascinating. In a recent survey, Americans were divided almost evenly in their answer to the question of whether America has gotten better or worse since the 1950s. That mirrors the different campaign slogans in the recent election: the backward-looking “Make America Great Again” vs. the embracing of a diverse future in which we are “Stronger Together.”

Two of the panelists focused in on Mexican and Muslim immigration. Many do not know that there have been Muslims in North America since the 16th century. It is also interesting that Mexican immigration has been declining.

Talking about the election, it was suggested that the result was more revelatory than revolutionary. It was suggested that religion scholars need to focus in on how racial and ethnic divides can be seen in how Evangelicals and Catholics voted. The percentage of white Christian density correlates more closely with voting for Trump than white working class does. White views also evolve depending on the percentage of immigrants in their community.

It was also interesting to hear about a previous registration of Muslim immigrants in Canada, which covered some 85,000 people, and led to no terror convictions. Amir Hussain shared that his own family lived the American dream: his parents worked in factories, and now he is a professor and his sister is an engineer. He also shared his experience of being contacted by the pastor of a Japanese church after 9/11, saying that non-Japanese Americans didn’t stand with Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, and so he and his congregation want to stand with Muslims.

Robert Jones also shared how there has been an increase in fear that terrorism will impact them directly. Americans are divided – although not evenly – over whether Muslim values are compatible with American values. He said that the big change for white Christians is that we used to have a melting pot that assimilated them to an Anglo-Saxon Protestant identity. Now whites are increasingly finding themselves guests at a table that no one owns.

During the question time, an important point that was made is that the Evangelical support for Trump was about nostalgia for a vision of society they feel slipping away, rather than Christian values.

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  • charlesburchfield

    I like this!
    “Evangelical support for Trump was about nostalgia for a vision of society they feel slipping away, rather than Christian values.”
    And this.
    “If other ages felt less, they saw more, even though they saw with the blind, prophetical, unsentimental eye of acceptance, which is to say, of faith. In the absence of this faith now, we govern by [nostalgia and] tenderness. It is a tenderness which, long cut off from the person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. When [Nostalgia and] tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced-labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber.” Flannery O’Connor

  • What evidence do you have for a “registration of Muslim immigrants in Canada”? I tried a look up but I didn’t find anything and I didn’t expect to find anything.

    • I may have misunderstood what he was referring to – I didn’t have wifi in the location where the lunch was held, and so I took notes in a draft blog post and then posted it quickly when I had wifi before the next session. What he described was an experience he himself had of being fingerprinted and having other things done once when he cleared customs in Canada – even though the next time he was passing through Canada a customs official said he should not have been put in the system since he was in transit to the United States.

      • Thanks for this. I expect that refugees are fully documented on or before arrival. Certainly the ones I am dealing with have been. I am not aware of anything that would be specific to Muslims and particularly retroactively for any specific group already landed. I have been involved with some recently arrived families from Syria. The dent in Canada’s population is very small on a per capita basis. The response from Canadians has to this point been welcoming, and hopeful. Individual groups across Canada have raised millions of dollars to support new families for the first year.

        Some of the people I have worked with are illiterate even in Arabic. In the late summer, I used props like a calendar or a loaf of fresh bread or a bus map or a bunch of freshly cut herbs. Teaching basic literacy is something I never imagined doing. It was best to work with both husband and wife together. Since the school year started, I have not been required. Adult and child alike are in school. Most of the one-on-one work is done by the women of our group. The refugee women are the ones who bring a successful built in job with them: home management and cooking. The long term impact of refugees has been very positive for this country in the past.