Religion, immigration and the Trump administration

Protesters in Minneapolis march against the Trump administration's travel ban on Feb. 11, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Fibonacci Blue via Creative Commons)

Faith groups have played an active role in the immigration debate for decades, issuing statements on proposed policies and caring for new arrivals to the United States. This work has continued over the last two years with increased urgency, as President Donald Trump cracked down on illegal immigration and limited legal entry, as well.

In the name of national security, the Trump administration has banned travelers from a handful of Muslim-majority countries, made it harder to request asylum, separated immigrant children from their parents and threatened to revoke federal funding from immigrant-friendly U.S. cities. More recently, the fight over funding for Trump’s planned border wall led to a partial government shutdown.

In the midst of these developments, conservative and progressive faith groups have continued to serve immigrants and refugees. Some have stepped up their political activism, opening their houses of worship to illegal immigrants and leading protests along the U.S.-Mexico border.

This edition of ReligionLink reviews the Trump administration’s major actions related to immigration and how faith groups responded. It also highlights people who can help you as you continue to explore the religious significance of immigration laws.

The Trump administration's major immigration decisions

Note: Many of these actions were blocked by federal judges soon after they were announced and haven’t yet gone into effect.

  • Jan. 25, 2017:  An executive order on public safety directed the attorney general to block sanctuary cities from receiving federal grants.
  • Jan. 27, 2017: An executive order limited travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries. Dubbed by opponents as a “Muslim ban,” the executive order was later updated by the Trump administration and upheld by the Supreme Court.
  • Sept. 5, 2017: Trump announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was launched by President Barack Obama to protect young people who had been brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
  • Nov. 6, 2017: The Department of Homeland Security terminated temporary protected status for Nicaragua, effective Jan. 5, 2019.
  • Nov. 20, 2017: The Department of Homeland Security terminated temporary protected status for Haiti, effective July 22, 2019.
  • Jan. 8, 2018: The Department of Homeland Security terminated temporary protected status for El Salvador, effective Sept. 9, 2019.
  • April 6, 2018: Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero-tolerance policy” on illegal immigration, which was later used to justify family separation.
  • April 26, 2018: The Department of Homeland Security terminated temporary protected status for Nepal, effective June 24, 2019.
  • May 4, 2018: The Department of Homeland Security terminated temporary protected status for Honduras, effective Jan. 5, 2020.
  • June 20, 2018: An executive order ended family separation at the border.
  • Nov. 9, 2018: Trump issued a proclamation on asylum-seekers stating they must come through a port of entry.
  • Dec. 22, 2018: A partial government shutdown began because of a battle over funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Background reading

Relevant research

Potential sources

  • Norma Pimentel

    Sister Norma Pimentel is the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. She advocates for immigrant rights and cares for men and women along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Contact: 956-702-4088, 956-541-0220.
  • Samuel Rodriguez

    The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. He has criticized conservative evangelicals who have spoken against or have remained silent on immigration and argued that the August 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, was driven, in part, by anti-immigrant rhetoric. Arrange an interview through the Kairos Co.

  • Matthew Soerens

    Matthew Soerens is the U.S. director of church mobilization for World Relief and national coordinator for Evangelical Immigration Table. He is the the co-author of Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis and Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate.

  • Omar Suleiman

    Imam Omar Suleiman is founder and president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research and an adjunct professor of Islamic studies at Southern Methodist University. He is an immigration rights activist and has been arrested at protests.

  • Mark Tooley

    Mark Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, a faith-based organization that tracks how Christian denominations respond to issues such as religious liberty, LGBT rights and immigration and often advocates for a more conservative approach.

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