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‘We’re Not Going To Be That Country’

Indonesian Protestants watch as the local government bulldozes their church in 2013 (Screenshot)

Judge Patti Saris is a wise and compassionate woman:

A federal judge on Wednesday likened a group of Indonesian Christians facing possible deportation by the Trump administration to Jewish refugees trying to escape the Nazis.

Judge Patti B. Saris compared the plight of the Indonesians, who are in the country illegally, to Jews fleeing the Third Reich in a boat — an apparent reference to the infamous case of the St. Louis, an ocean liner that left Germany with 937 passengers, most of them Jews, and was turned away by the US government in 1939. Hundreds of the Jews were later killed during the Holocaust.

The Indonesians argue they will be tortured or killed because of their religion if forced to return to their Muslim-majority homeland. The Trump administration insists they have not proven they would be harmed if they returned to Indonesia.

“We’re not going to be that country,” Saris said Wednesday at a hearing in US District Court in Boston. “We don’t want to put them on the ship unless someone” can review their contention that deportation back to Indonesia is “a really bad situation for them.”

Many Christians in Indonesia face persecution in the Muslim majority nation. And yet, the world’s largest and most powerful Christian nation, founded in part by Christian dissidents seeking a place to worship without fear of persecution, is sending them back to face their tormentors — this, even though they have been living in the US for years, and have caused no problems.

Why are we doing this? The Boston Globe reports:

The Trump administration contends that the group members should be deported immediately because they have final removal orders. The administration also contends the Indonesians have not shown they would face harm if deported.

“Even if they are removed, petitioners’ generalized evidence of Indonesia’s conditions do not prove that persecution or torture is immediate or likely for each petitioner,” Justice Department lawyers wrote in December. “Their assertion that ‘all face a significant risk of persecution and torture if removed to Indonesia’ is unsupported by facts that relate to any specific petitioner.”

These people have nothing to go back to. But that’s where our President is sending them.

Here’s a video about the destruction of a Protestant church in 2013, on orders of the local Indonesian government, spurred on by Islamic hardliners:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kECddgwHQE&w=525&h=300]

Is sending your fellow believers back to that what you voted for, Christian Trump backer? Did you vote for two Michigan children to watch their father, who was brought to the US as a child 30 years ago by an illegal immigrant, be deported?

I agree that we should tighten our immigration policy as a general rule. But if that means sending Christians back into societies where they are persecuted, and if that means breaking a family up to punish a gardener who was brought to this country as a kid, and who has lived here for 30 years — no, I can’t see how this is remotely consonant with the Gospel.

We can’t be that country, and we can’t be that church.

These stories share the headlines with the quite plausible claim that Donald Trump, the new Constantine, had an extramarital affair with a porn star in 2006 and paid her to keep quiet during the campaign. We’ll be hearing a lot more about that today, when In Touch magazine runs its 5,500 word interview with the porn star. This presidency is putting stink on the churches that will not come off. Jonah Goldberg asks:

But while voters are perfectly free to make their own decisions about what factors they want to take into account in their estimation of politicians, I am at a loss as to how various social- and religious-conservative leaders can, with clear conscience, or even a straight face, shrug off this kind of thing, never mind defend it. If you’ve dedicated your professional or pastoral life to upholding and enforcing public standards of decency, there is no principled argument for giving Trump a pass. There are any number of transactional, prudential, “pragmatic,” or instrumental arguments for doing so. But when liberals — and many other Republicans — were embroiled in sex scandals, those leaders were at the forefront of repudiating such defenses as moral relativism. At the very least, Jerry Falwell & Co. should be condemning Trump’s behavior.

Morality is supposed to be way, way upstream of politics. If your position is that your team doesn’t have to do right because the other team does wrong, you don’t really believe in doing right for its own sake.

Preach. Seriously, my fellow believers, do you not think we are going to be judged by God for this? Do you not think we are going to be judged by the world? By no means do all Christians support this garbage, but many do — and the price we will all pay when the political backlash comes will be devastating.

UPDATE: Jonah R. makes a reasonable rebuttal:

From the Boston Globe article:

The case involves about 50 Indonesian Christians who have been living on the Seacoast of New Hampshire and the South Shore of Massachusetts, some for decades, despite not having the proper documentation. Ranging in age from about 40 to 60, most are parents of US citizens and have worked in a variety of fields. One is an administrative assistant. Another fixes trucks.

Most came in the late 1990s and early 2000s during a period of anti-Christian violence in Indonesia. Many overstayed their visas and failed to seek asylum on time.

Of course I don’t want these people to get sent back to a hostile society that will persecute them. But they’re adults who have settled into American life, gotten jobs, and started families. So why didn’t they get their immigration status straightened out sometime in the past twenty years?

There’s an explanation in the story, provided without a source: “But since 2010, US immigration authorities allowed the otherwise law-abiding Indonesians to live and work here, provided they checked in regularly.” How on earth did they or their immigration attorneys (which I sure hope they had) think that would be a sufficient permanent solution to their residency status? Why are they only using the right to an asylum hearing as a legal strategy now? Asian and Australian immigrant friends of mine who arrived at the same time got their green cards years ago. Did these Indonesian Christians even apply?

Again, I am not anti-immigration, but if we’re going to base our immigration policies purely on pathos, then let’s stop pretending we even have laws.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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