Last Friday the Obama Administration announced immigration law would no longer be enforced against hundreds of thousands of, and potentially several million, illegal immigrants under age 31 if they came to the U.S. prior to age 16. The policy is controversial not only for its substance but also because the Administration in unilaterally choosing not to enforce the law rather than changing the law through legislation.
Congress has declined several times to approve the “Dream Act,” which would essentially grant by legislation what the Administration has now unilaterally decreed.
This controversy did not deter the National Association of Evangelicals from backing the Administration.
“This new policy is good news for America and is good news for undocumented young adults who came to America through the choice of others,” said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). “It is the right thing to do.”
Earlier last week, Anderson joined other evangelicals to announce a new “Evangelical Immigration Table” advocating legalization for illegal immigrants. But that coalition is urging legislation through Congress. It did not advocate unilaterally ignoring the law.
One member of last week’s evangelical coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform was Focus on the Family, whose representative criticized the Administration’s unilateral action.
“We are not supporting this announcement,” said Tom Minnery, a senior vice president at Focus on the Family. “The first two years he (Obama) had Democratic control of Congress and promised to fix immigration in his first year and he hasn’t done so. It is hard to take the president seriously after that.”
Unsurprisingly, liberal religious activist Jim Wallis, who’s prominently part of the Evangelical Immigration Table, loved the Administration’s action.
“As evangelicals we love the ‘good news’ of the gospel, and today we affirm this good news that gives hope and a future for young immigrants who are an important part of both the church and this country,” Wallis said.
Others were more wary. “Many illegal immigrants will falsely claim they came here as children and the federal government has no way to check whether their claims are true,” warned Republican congressman Lamar Smith, chair of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. “And once these illegal immigrants are granted deferred action, they can then apply for a work permit, which the administration routinely grants 90% of the time.”
Evangelicals and other Christians may disagree about the right immigration policies of course. The Scriptures and church tradition offer no detailed guidance for modern civil states and immigration law. But Christians have nearly always affirmed obedience to civil law, except when egregiously evil, and absent lawful means for amending the law. The NAE’s chief spokesman has affirmed an Administration’s decision to disregard the law after Congress has declined several times to legalize younger illegal immigrants.
Does NAE President Leith Anderson favor the Administration ignoring or ceasing to enforce other laws? Earlier this year the Administration announced it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act. Presumably the NAE disapproves, but on what basis, if a chief executive and his appointees may unilaterally pick and choose the laws they will enforce?
Do most members of NAE churches agree with such a cavalier stance towards our nation’s laws? Very doubtful.