But if you come here illegally, we will take your children from you as a punishment, and will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. And we’ll trot out some scripture to justify what we are doing…
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities . For there is no authority except from God and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Romans 13:1-2 ESV
So you’re citing this verse in support of the enforcement of immigration law under Trump. Were you citing it during the eight years of the Obama Presidency? Did you accept the Affordable Care Act when it was passed? How about in regard to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal and a constitutionally protected right? How about the recognition of same-gender marriage, do you accept that under this same Biblical principle?
Rhetorical questions, I know.
Obviously, some laws are unjust, and some are based on practices and principles that go against our Christian beliefs and principles. From a personal perspective, I believe that after a woman becomes pregnant, it’s not just “her” body anymore, and there is another life of equal value that needs to be considered in any decisions that are made regarding health. I don’t believe that God’s plan for the family is for two people of the same gender to enter into a marriage relationship. I also happen to think that health care is a basic human right, and that it is as much of a sanctity of human life issue as abortion rights are. I think the for-profit insurance and medical care system that has developed in the US, which causes us to pay twice as much per capita for medical care, and which takes profit out of out pockets twice, once for the insurance premiums, and again for the cost of care and medication, is a moral injustice. No system is perfect, but I’d favor a model based on what the Europeans or Canadians have, since they seem to be meeting needs and providing higher quality care to their population, in spite of what the critics say.
So let’s talk immigration reform and let’s get past all the trumpian rhetoric at the outset of the conversation. The current immigration laws are not “their laws” in reference to Democrats. Laws in this country, regardless of who passed them, apply to everyone. The one that Trump errantly refers to when referencing the practice of separating children from their parents was passed by a majority Republican House and Senate. Both Presidents Clinton and Obama were fairly strict in their enforcement of immigration law, and of working to stop illegal immigration, and were fairly successful at it as the record shows. They did it within the limits of the law, made allowances for granting political asylum under the law when the cases warranted doing so, and in contrast to the Bush administration, which simply cut staffing at INS and the Border Patrol to give tax breaks to the wealthy, and ruined the enforcement of immigration law, allowing millions to come in to the country illegally, were relatively successful at stopping the abuses and being humane. Those claims that they “did the same thing” are what you suspect they are, lies.
The decision to separate children from their parents as a means of enforcing the law, and of making illegal border crossings a felony as practiced by the Trump administration is a much different approach to enforcing the law than Clinton, Obama or Bush took during their terms. This is an injustice, just as much as an abortion is one. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with protesting, and putting pressure on politicians to change the law. That’s how this country works. Political pressure eventually expresses the will of the people, whether it is through protest, or the potential threat of an uprising at the ballot box. With the thin-skinned Trump, the polling numbers he and his supporters like to deny forced his decision in less than a month, after it appeared that an electoral disaster for the GOP would accompany the continuation of the policy. Whatever the reason, when the voices crying out against this particular injustice reached a crescendo, and the needle of public opinion was tilting rapidly away from Trump, he stopped the practice, though not before considerable political damage was done to Republican chances to hold Congress in November.
But I believe that American immigration law and policy, as it now exists, is unjust, and as such, needs to be changed. Most of those coming from Latin America, and hence across the border from Mexico, are fleeing criminal violence and oppression, and absolute poverty in the countries from which they are coming. Those conditions exist there mainly due to American interference in the internal affairs of their countries “to protect American interests in the region.” Through most of our history, the United States has considered it necessary to control the politics of Latin America, particularly since a communist dictatorship was able to take hold in Cuba. Our government, going back to at least the Eisenhower Administration, has supported oppressive dictators, financed revolutionaries and precipitated civil wars that have taken hundreds of thousands of lives, put millions of people into poverty, made them homeless, and created a power vacuum of anarchy into which drug lords and criminal elements who make their money off of American addictions, continue to rob the population blind, and murder them and their children when they get in the way. Ironically, these people flee oppression by heading to the one place on their continent where they believe they will have the opportunity to work hard and have a better life. Our response is to take their children from them, arrest them, brand them as a felon, and detain them indefinitely without granting them the same rights that they’re coming here to receive.
Our immigration laws and quotas are tilted toward the cash. Quotas are set so that wealthy immigrants can come at their leisure, and so that they bring their fortune with them in order to enhance our economy when they come. There is plenty of room in the quota for Norwegians who want to come to the US, but even though the quota always goes unfilled, it stays the same. On the other hand, if you want to come from El Salvador, good luck. The quota is much smaller than the demand, and you’ll have to wait in line literally for years to get to the top of the list. If, that is, you survive that long. The problem is that the crises around the world that prompt people to think of America as a refuge from oppression (gee, where did we ever get that reputation?) don’t happen in countries where the quota for immigration to America is large enough to meet the need. In spite of our reputation as a haven from oppression, which is part of our historic, philosophical and religious foundation, our immigration laws are to benefit the rich, not the oppressed.
Attempts at reform, such as those introduced by President Johnson in the late 1960’s, get turned back by subsequent administrations because those who come here seeking opportunity to better themselves don’t have political clout. And because we have done such a terrible job of teaching the historical foundations of American principles to our students in the public education system, we have generations of Americans who have no idea why that big green statue sits on an island in New York harbor, or the principles and foundations for which it stands.
So yes, Romans 13 does have something to say about the governing authorities. But if you think abortion is wrong, immoral and unjust, then you need to start thinking that other laws passed by our government can be just as wrong, immoral and unjust. Given the principles that were articulated by our founding fathers when the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written, and where this country got the people who made it into what it is now, our current immigration law and policy is also wrong, immoral and unjust, measured against American ideals. They can, and should, be changed.