The Challenges of 2017

The Challenges of 2017
Father Shay Cullen
December 28, 2016

This coming 2017 will be a momentous year for the political and moral landscape of the planet. There is a rising tide of political and moral challenges facing humanity. Pope Francis will continue his historic reforms of the Church and the Curia, bringing back the Gospel values and true evangelization. He will continue challenging the world to work and cooperate for peace, justice and freedom. He will promote daily the Gospel message of truth, honesty, compassion, mercy and the spirit and values of human rights and the dignity of every individual and community.

The American president Donald Trump and his extreme right wing views are contradicting the liberal, compassionate and more diplomatic approach of President Barak Obama. The New Year will likely be dominated by controversial issues. After Donald Trump takes office on January 20, 2017 a strict immigration policy will be implemented. It will have a huge impact on undocumented residents of the United States affecting all nationalities- Mexicans, Filipinos, Irish and British, just to mention a few who are in the United States undocumented.

Trump will slow the inflow of immigrants and stop accepting refugees. He will accelerate the deportation of all those without legal documentation to be in the USA. This will cause the break up of families, separating children who are citizens from their parents and relatives who are not legal immigrants. Human suffering will follow.

The change in immigration policy to restrict Mexican and South American workers coming legally and many illegally to the United States seasonally for harvesting fruits and vegetables and doing the dirty work will damage the incomes of American farmers and construction companies that rely on the abundant cheap Mexican labor from over the border.

Filipinos will find it harder to get a tourist visa or any kind of visa to visit friends and relatives in the United States. This is because of the change of foreign policy of Philippine President Rodrigo Dutere away from the United States in favor of China and Russia. The requirement of the US immigration not to have supported in any form whatsoever the extrajudicial killings will challenge visa applicants.

This may upset a lot of Filipinos. The US immigration department is becoming strict on the screening of Filipinos especially those who are applying for a visa whether they are in the Philippines or any other country. If a visa applicant has expressed online, on Facebook or any other social media or is known to have supported the extrajudicial killing under the Duterte administration, they will have to comply with the requirements the Torture Victims Protection Act.

On the application form DS-160, they will be asked if they have ever “vommitted, ordered, incited, assisted or otherwise participated in acts of torture. . . or extrajudicial killings as defined in the Torture Victims Protection Act.” If the applicant has ever cheered or attended rallies supporting the acts of killing of suspects the applicant has to answer yes. The visa will be likely refused.

If the applicant answers no and it is reported or otherwise comes to light that the applicant did express support for the extrajudicial killings, they could be arrested in the United States and charged with a violation and jailed or deported. It’s a serious offense to give false information to the US immigration officials. Under President Trump, it will be strictly enforced.

2017 could be the start of four years of contentious issues. Even if Trump backs away from his more outlandish and provocative campaign rhetoric yet his threats to withdraw from treaties like the Paris climate change agreement will also dominate the New Year.

As the global warming continues to heat up, the message of Pope Francis on the world environment is of greatest importance. The Arctic ice melting quickly, the rising levels of the ocean inundating low-lying islands and coastal towns and villages will cause social unrest globally. There will be outrage and great civil unrest in the United States also as the Trump administration activates the coal industry, leaves basic wages the same, reduces corporate tax to 15 percent and removes protective environmental and financial regulations. The billionaires in his government and outside it will continue their self-enrichment and he will fail to deliver the prosperity promised to the marginalized electorate who voted him into office.

The poor in America and the world will likely realize after a few years of Trump that billionaires do not approve of long term investment for poor communities. They are against development aid for countries of the developing world. They will exploit the poor countries to get a big profit from controlling the raw materials and natural resources. They are there in office not to serve but to enrich their own wealth and that of their companies. If international trade deals are rescinded, it will hurt the US economy as well as many other countries and the poor most of all.

For all of us, 2017 is a challenge with the rise of the right political groups that advocate exclusion and nationalism. This will be countered by the awaking of the broader population to its dangers to democracy yet it will take a few years for it to fade from the political scene as the refugee challenge continues.
We hope and pray for 2017 to see the strengthening of the dignity of the people, an end to the killing of suspects, the reign of justice and peace and respect for the rights of children.

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