“I am not going to pretend that I am a policy wonk,” Franciscan Friar Jason Welle conceded in Lafayette Square before the White House on February 17, 1014, during a protest against illegal immigrant deportations. Welle’s admission of ignorance while questioned on American immigration policy highlighted the protestors’ flawed understanding of God’s infallible Word and mankind’s fallible judgment.
Friar Welle had come with some 100 demonstrators to support United Methodist Church (UMC) bishops Minerva G. Carcaño and Julius Calvin Trimble in leading about two dozen protestors in civil disobedience. The protestors illegally remained stationary with protest signs in a small restricted zone on the sidewalk directly in front of the White House before removal by arresting officers. A prior demonstration demanded that President Barack Obama stop illegal immigrant deportations while Americans “wait for comprehensive immigration reform,” as Carcaño stated.
Acting in conjunction with the National Day Laborers Organizing Network’s (NDLON) “Not One More Deportation” campaign, the demonstrators decried the Obama Administration’s “unprecedented 2 million deportations” according to a distributed press release. Demonstrators chanted the campaign’s namesake slogan and Spanish equivalent (“Ni Una Más Deportación”) as well as “two million is too many.” A musician intoned the civil rights movement ballad Eyes on the Prize while Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea, Director of Refugee & Immigration Ministries at the Disciples Home Missions (DHM), invoked the cliché “speak truth to power.” Carcaño praised the demonstrators as “so filled with God’s one justice.”
The demonstrators argued that Obama could suspend deportations under, for example, the “prosecutorial discretion” instituted by him in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. A recent NDLON petition further claimed that the executive branch has “extremely broad and virtually unreviewable discretion” concerning deportations. The Obama Administration has denied possessing such inherent executive authority.
A key theme in the addresses of speakers like Stanley-Rea was family dissolution due to illegal alien parent deportation. One Latina mother of two little girls spoke of her husband in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. “Stop deporting innocent people,” she implored, “who have a right like anyone else to a decent life.”
Interviewed like Welle after the demonstration, Sister Marie Lucey of the Franciscan Action Network While also saw American advantage from illegal immigrants whose “only so-called crime has been to cross the border.” While moral concerns such as family unity were the “deepest reason” for opposing deportations, Lucey praised even single illegal immigrants as “contributing so much to our economy.” Noncriminal illegal immigrants should be able to “earn a path to citizenship” in a currently “aging society” while “strict border controls” gave her confidence in current immigration laws.
“Dealing with the whole thing all at once” was Lucey’s favored comprehensive approach to immigration issues despite my reference to another controversial comprehensive policy, namely the “Obamacare” healthcare reform. Asked about alternatively resolving immigration disputes with piecemeal, carefully considered steps, Lucey described various current policy proposals as “extremely negative” and “more punitive.” Piecemeal steps functioning as “stall” tactics concerned Welle as well, although illegal immigrant family separation was perhaps the “lowest hanging fruit” among the individual issues concerning the demonstrators.
Welle, though, expressed various uncertainties contrasting with the demonstration’s confident certitude and righteousness. “Of course,” for example, any comprehensive immigration reform could entail unforeseen consequences, yet Welle declared earning “decent living” an illegal immigrant “human right.” Welle confessed his aforementioned “wonk” deficiency when asked about foreigners seeking to emulate American illegal immigrant living standards. Welle also admitted not knowing the origins of the claim that two million deportations under Obama are record setting.
Jessica Vaughan, analyst with the conservative, immigration restriction favoring Center for Immigration Studies, though, offers official statistics in contradiction to Welle and his fellow demonstrators. Writing on December 26, 2013, Vaughan cited official statistics beginning in 1927 to note that the Obama Administration had deported 3.2 million illegal immigrants during its first four years, not the almost 2 million reported by others. This 800,000 annual average deported by all DHS agencies during Obama’s first term was lower than past administrations going back to President Gerald Ford. Such “bogus statistics” underlay “outrageous demands for an end to all deportations.”
Biblically the demonstrators rested on shaky ground as well. DHM’s “Scripture Links & Background Guide” distributed at the rally quoted verses such as Leviticus 19:33-34 with its injunction that the “stranger…shall be to you as the citizen” and to “love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Care for such strangers who as immigrants “bring gifts…culture…abilities,” Carcaño stated in a 2011 interview, “flows throughout all of Scripture.” “I serve a God that [sic] knows no human borders,” she said, and “looks at the world…as a whole community.”
CIS’s “A Biblical Perspective on Immigration Policy” by James R. Edwards, Jr., though, offers alternative Christian immigration views. The “passages of Scripture most often cited by religious advocates of mass immigration and amnesty plainly do not argue for open borders,” Edwards notes. “Rather, these writings generally reflect ‘equal justice under law’ principles.”
By contrast, “God regards borders as meaningful and important,” as, for example, in Deuteronomy 19:14’s injunction against moving boundary stones. Of various migrations recorded in the Bible such as the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt, “[n]one appears to have involved illegality.” Further, the “biblical standard for immigrants is that they obey the laws of a nation” like everyone else.
Analyzing the New Testament’s basic text on government authorities who “bear the sword” as a “minister of God to you for good” in Romans 13:1-7, Edwards notes that this passage defines government as a protector of its citizens. This has the “implication of national sovereignty,” including the “right to determine the grounds for admitting foreigners into the jurisdiction.” The “deduction that immigration policies should principally benefit citizens” also results.
The morality of an act changes depending upon whether a public or private actor commands it, Edwards differentiates. An individual who “turns the other cheek, gives up his tunic, and gives to a beggar” has made the “decision willingly to bear an injustice.” Governments, “guardians of justice and protectors of the innocent,” however, “only can obligate the members of its society” to suffer such injustice. “Jesus Christ told the rich young man to sell his belongings and follow Him…yet he never advocated a public policy” of confiscation.
Such analysis informs criticisms of amnesty proposals for 12 million or more illegal immigrants at a time when the legal immigration rate is four times the historic average. These largely poor individuals, Edwards and others have noted, would, among other things, “qualify for scarce public resources” like welfare. Their amnesty would also inspire future illegal immigrants, as has happened in the past. Yet some studies have shown that most illegal immigrants abandon a job in their native home to make more money in the United States, provoking I Tim. 6:10’s condemnation of the “love of money” from Edwards.
Concerns about family separation leading to a deportation stop in these specific cases, meanwhile, elicit from CIS’s David North various criticisms. Illegal immigrants in response might very well seek to bring to, or bear in, the United States children with the hope of avoiding deportation. The recognized harm of separating parents from a child, moreover, does not prevent the imprisonment of criminal parents. North also questioned why a child could not follow a deported parent into another country.
The rally’s certitude with respect to complicated questions of immigration derived in part from a questionable Biblical basis contrasted with other policy positions of some demonstrators. One Latina’s address referencing her detained “partner” prompted the question to Welle about what should count as a family under deportation standards. Should family include what was most likely the woman’s unmarried boyfriend, perhaps qualifying for common law marriage, or, more recently, homosexual partners? Marriage is a “sticky issue” that “divides our churches,” Welle admitted with respect to modern debates over same-sex “marriage” (SSM).
Indeed, Carcaño flatly declared on December 20, 2013, that the UMC “is wrong in its position on homosexuality.” She then invited SSM-officiating, defrocked UMC minister Frank Schaefer to work in her UMC California-Pacific Annual Conference. Trimble, for his part, would “welcome more Christian conversation that seeks understanding and unity amidst diverse theological and personal views” on homosexuality.
Such is faith and morality in the religious Left’s Social Gospel. Principles regulating human sexuality grounded in reason and revelation have suddenly lost their age-old validity. A few out of context Bible verses suffice, meanwhile, to sanctify certain positions on complex policy matters only partially understood by individuals like Welle and brush aside existing laws. “Sacred scriptures speak constantly about the importance of families,” DHM’s “Scripture Links & Background Guide” rightfully notes while opposing deportations, yet this apparently has no significance for family definition. This relativism dishonors truth, leaving only power.