God’s Plan: Immigration & Crime, Part 2
Companion blog to “Refuge“
In last week’s Part 1, we stepped back from the problem of children being separated from their parents at the border and tried to grab hold of what God says foundationally first so that we can rightly think about such an emotionally gripping topic. We are blessed that God speaks very clearly on…
- A nation’s right to adjudicate crime (justice)
- The immigrant
- The criminal
- The orphan
- Judicial discretion (mercy)
- Restoration of the criminal and their family
We identified the immigrant to be what the Bible calls a “sojourner.”
Seeing the “sojourner” rightly
“The sojourner must follow the same law as the people of God follow. That’s what the Bible teaches. The Bible doesn’t say that sojourners get into our nation however they want and get to do whatever they want because they are sojourners.” – Pastor Steve Wilson
In Exodus 12:19-28 the nation of Israel is given explicit instructions on observing the Passover with the caveat that disobedience would absolutely cut a person off from the nation and their families. Complete separation was in view here for the Israelite and the sojourner who broke the law. Yes, sojourners could graciously be included in the nations’ activities if they agreed to acclimate, but they were expected to follow the same laws as the regular citizens. No favoritism was allowed.
Our government has the Godly authority to expect sojourners to acclimate to our laws as well. This is not wrong. It is Biblical.
America has a gracious history of welcoming and even providing for the immigrant. Who doesn’t want one of the millions of DNA test kits sold so we can show off our diverse immigrant pedigrees to friends? This nation doesn’t hate or want to hurt the immigrant, legal or illegal. Each year, the U.S. welcomes approximately 700,000 to 750,000 citizens during naturalization ceremonies across the United States and around the world. It’s proven that our economy benefits greatly from immigrants.
But America loves children even more.
It has never been suggested in our country before now that it would be a good idea for criminally innocent and vulnerable children to have to acclimate into criminal detention centers with their parents, especially when we know that sex and drug traffickers are heavily mingled into that population. I don’t believe Americans as a whole would ever agree to this level of risk. Just look at the stiff felony endangerment laws that we have specifically designed to stop children from being exposed to criminality.
Our government and local communities have invested millions for interconnected sex-offender websites so that parents can keep their kids as far away from potential predators as possible. We spend billions on massive government and private agencies that provide the best education, healthcare, safety, nutrition and entertainment for our own children.
Why wouldn’t we treat immigrant children as well as our own? Why wouldn’t we want to make their care and safety the highest priority during such a life-altering event? It’s certainly a time where their parents are in a less-than-able-position to provide normal care for them (food, clothing, shelter). Prioritizing children’s true physical needs first before emotional needs surely makes sense. Any loving, selfless parent would agree.
I believe these parents logically knew the risks that lay ahead for them and their children as they set out into the night. I also believe that they trust in the goodness of the American government or they wouldn’t be coming. Why wouldn’t they think that we could humanely care for their children? That is who we are and what we do.
Benedict Carey of the NY Times writes a very balanced article about how doctors are actually finding the mental states of children who are detained with a parent and those who are separated from a parent.
“Most of the children held on the border will have accumulated traumas, Dr. K. Brabeck (a psychologist at Rhode Island College) said. Even before their parents were detained, many already had run the gauntlet of immigration itself, fleeing with little resources from often violent communities.”
These parents, knowing their children are safe, warm and fed is surely a reprieve in the storm along their journey; even if the adjudication process takes a few weeks or months. We wouldn’t ask a child to live in a hospital with a sick parent or on the battlefield. I trust that people know there are times when children are best served in the care of others. Jail is no exception.
Care of the orphan (albeit temporary) is commanded by God and the morality of that timeless principle has sprung up all manner of respected authority to cement that norm among believers and non-believers worldwide. Separating children from parents could only be immoral (in this situation) if…
- The government were not a rightful government with rightful authority as Romans 13 tells us.
- The laws were not rightfully instituted or rightfully exercised, as in the case of corrupt officials.
Pastor Wilson answers this tough situation this way…
“I’m confronted with (in Joshua 20 – cities of refuge), not with a government’s principle, not with my idea, not with my emotional response to separating children from parents…I’m confronted with the word of God who says, as it regards criminal offenses, you must separate the criminals. And that separation, unless you just don’t want to hear it, involves separating them from their families. And in this case, putting them (kids) in a safe place until either the adjudication process is completed or until they (parents) have served their tenure there. When Christians (& Christian leaders) impugn our government on that same policy, they’re impugning God. God is the one who established these principles and there is nothing about this situation that violates any of those Biblical principles. That does not mean that there are not some injustices happening at the border. There certainly are because they are human beings. You cannot indict a government for adhering to the laws that have been established by the people and appointed and ordained by God. This is a crisis moment because God is on trial and God has already spoken on this matter.”
Only when a Christian is being asked to do what God forbids, or not do what God requires, does he or she have the Biblical authority to move against (in word or deed) the government that God has put over them.
Action We Can Take Now
All decent people, believers or non-believers, want children to be with their loved ones; safe and comforted. Anything less is just not normal thinking. I feel that this debate will continue and although I don’t want children living in cages or in an adult detention population, I do want what God has to say on this matter to matter to Christians.
I didn’t make the decision for these parents to take their children into illegal immigration and I’m not a government legislator, but I can speak with concern about the hardship of these children and still not forget God is in charge, working through the system He set up. I can go to Him directly and confidently asking Him to…
- Be glorified through this time of great outcry.
- Cause these life-altering circumstances to incline the hearts of all involved toward God and His kingdom.
- Have His will done in every aspect of these children’s circumstances and the laws that rule us.
- Provide ample comfort, provision and protection for the children living temporarily without the blessing of a loving parent.
- Provide wisdom to the judges to see the law rightfully executed and be able to see the true intent of each adult’s actions that lead to this situation.
- See that children can either be reunited with their rightful parents or saved from drug & sex traffickers.
- Forgive us for not seeing His authorities rightly. Forgive us wherever we have not taken care of the least of these. Lead us away from such words and deeds that sin against your commands.
 A Troubling Prognosis for Migrant Children in Detention: ‘The Earlier They’re Out, the Better’, by Benedict Carey, June 18, 2018, New York Times
 James 1:27, Exodus 22:22-24, Isaiah 1:17, Psalms 82:3, Job 29:12, Psalm 146:9, Psalm 68:5, Deuteronomy 14:28-29
 Romans 13, Joshua 20