Politics Foreign Affairs Culture We're Hiring

Christians, Cruelty, Children & The Law

No moral justification for the Trump administration's policy separating illegal migrant families

Here’s what Attorney General Jeff Sessions said about the Trump administration’s policy of separating children of illegal immigrants from their parents. Excerpt:

Let me take an aside to discuss concerns raised by our church friends about separating families. Many of the criticisms raised in recent days are not fair or logical and some are contrary to law.

First — illegal entry into the United States is a crime—as it should be. Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.

Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.

Our policies that can result in short term separation of families is not unusual or unjustified. American citizens that are jailed do not take their children to jail with them. And non-citizens who cross our borders unlawfully —between our ports of entry—with children are not an exception.

They are the ones who broke the law, they are the ones who endangered their own children on their trek. The United States on the other hand, goes to extraordinary lengths to protect them while the parents go through a short detention period.

Please note, Church friends, that if the adults go to one of our many ports of entry to claim asylum, they are not prosecuted and the family stays intact pending the legal process.

The problem is that it became well known that adults with children were not being prosecuted for unlawful entry and the numbers surged from 15,000 in 2013 to 75,000 four years later. That policy was a declaration of open borders for family units.

Importantly, children are far more at risk attempting entry in remote areas.

I have given the idea of immigration much thought and have considered the arguments of our Church leaders. I do not believe scripture or church history or reason condemns a secular nation state for having reasonable immigration laws. If we have them, then they should be enforced. A mere desire to benefit from entry to the nation does not justify illegal entry. And, there are of course adverse consequences to illegal actions.

I hope you’ll read the entire Sessions statement. I agree with more of it than I thought I would. He’s right that a nation has the right to regulate its borders. The family separation policy was introduced by the Trump administration deliberately to discourage the flow of illegals. If they know that they are going to have their children separated from them if they get caught crossing illegally, the thinking goes, then they’ll be less likely to try it.

It is just for a nation to have immigration laws. But what counts as “reasonable”? Is it reasonable to separate mothers and fathers from their children? If so, by what standard is it reasonable?

NPR reported yesterday:

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said at Thursday’s press briefing that she wasn’t aware of the attorney general’s comments, but she endorsed Sessions’ interpretation of Scripture.

“I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible,” she said.

Well, that’s exactly what segregationists said about black civil rights protesters who were put into jail in the 1960s for sitting at lunch counters where the law forbade them to sit. Alan Jacobs, an Evangelical, nails the issue here:

But when Obama was president the relevant biblical passage wasn’t Romans 13:1, it was Acts 5:29. The goalposts have moved — and when there’s a another Democratic president and/or Congress, they’ll move again. Conservative Christians would never have countenanced electing a president who has been divorced — until Reagan came along. When Bill Clinton was president, character in the occupant of the Oval Office was everything; now it’s nothing, or, really, less than nothing.

The lesson to be drawn here is this: the great majority of Christians in America who call themselves evangelical are simply not formed by Christian teaching or the Christian scriptures. They are, rather, formed by the media they consume — or, more precisely, by the media that consume them. The Bible is just too difficult, and when it’s not difficult it is terrifying. So many Christians simply act tribally, and when challenged to offer a Christian justification for their positions typically grope for a Bible verse or two, with no regard for its context or even its explicit meaning. Or summarize a Sunday-school story that they clearly don’t understand, as when they compare Trump to King David because both sinned without even noticing that David’s penitence was even more extravagant than his sins while Trump doesn’t think he needs to repent of anything. But hey, as a Trump supporter once wrote to me: “Now we are fused with him.”

And that’s it, that’s the law, that’s the whole of the law.

Jacobs goes on to say that it all turns on the meaning of the word “reasonable.”

How can it ever be reasonable to tear a child from his mother’s arms for the crime of having crossed the US-Mexico border illegally? Detain these families and deport them back home — fine. But do not violate the family bond. Those children are not to blame for their parents’ decision. Why must they suffer?

This is a vicious and inhumane policy, and it’s repulsive that Christians in this administration are defending it on biblical grounds. The Trump White House, Fox News, and conservative talk radio are not any kind of valid Christian magisterium.



Want to join the conversation?

Subscribe for as little as $5/mo to start commenting on Rod’s blog.

Join Now