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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Emily Hall

Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

This Father’s Day weekend, along with posting throwback photos with dad, the nation was busy posting views on a recent crisis. Stories and statements about the U.S. policy to separate immigrant families illegally crossing the southern border flooded social media and other online platforms.

Many Christian individuals and organizations took a leadership role in this conversation. Franklin Graham told CBN that the policy is “disgraceful.” “It’s terrible to see families ripped a part and I don’t support that one bit,” he said.

Ruth Graham reported for Slate: “Groups including the Southern Baptist Convention and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have denounced the family-separation policy. Eight leaders of organizations including the National Association of Evangelicals and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities signed a letter on June 1 condemning the policy on the grounds that ‘God has established the family as the fundamental building block of society.’”

The nation noticed not only the voices of those Christian groups, but also the silence of one group in particular – Focus on the Family (FON).

“The silence has been especially glaring because so many conservative Christian organizations and leaders see the situation at the border as a moral emergency,” Graham reported. “In response to an interview request last week, a Focus on the Family representative initially sent a brief statement on behalf of Daly. ‘We’re mindful of the fact that children being separated from their parents can be harmful and traumatic,’ it read in part. ‘We’re following the current debate closely and awaiting the specifics of the proposed legislation intended to address these and other concerns related to immigration reform and border security.’

Graham reported that when she asked FON this past Monday, the organization told her not to expect any statements about the issue soon.

The silence was broken yesterday when Jim Daley, President of FON, posted: “Thoughts on the Border Crisis” on his blog. Portions of it read:

“Like many of you, I’ve been following its many twists and turns, straining to gather reliable information and, at times, struggling to separate the fact from the fiction… As I’ve previously indicated, separating children from their parents can be harmful and traumatic… [S]eeing images of innocent, crying boys and girls in custody is enough to rip your heart out. The current crisis is a tragedy, pure and simple.”

Daley then talks about Planned Parenthood’s Father’s Day tweet, which said: “In our hearts and minds today: all of the fathers and parents who have been separated from their children at borders. Keep families together … You deserve to be together regardless of immigration status. Keeping families together is reproductive justice.”

“Are they serious?” Daily wrote. “Surely, this is the height of hubris. Planned Parenthood permanently separates children from their parents each and every day…”

Daley drew connections from the current crisis at the border to long-standing problems “of bad policy, unenforced laws and an inability of politicians to make difficult and often unpopular decisions.  It’s also the result of tyrannical and unpopular governments – and the attractive bright light of America that has historically drawn people to her shores.”

He urged those with power in government to “work together towards a humane and God-honoring solution that best preserves the integrity and sanctity of the family unit while also protecting our borders and assuring the safety of our citizens.”

Daley also asked Christians to pray and to “move beyond shouting snappy soundbites in social media and understand that it’s not so much what you say as what you do. Focus on the Family is committed to working with leadership on both sides of the aisle, often behind the scenes, both shaping policy and advocating for solutions that serve the greater good and thereby honor God.”

Photo Courtesy: Unsplash/Hermes Rivera

Publication Date: June 20, 2018

Texas Senator Ted Cruz says he will introduce emergency legislation that would immediately end the separation of families at the border.

“All Americans are rightly horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers. This must stop,” Cruz said in a statement.

The announcement comes after Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a directive to separate the children from their parents if they are caught illegally trying to enter the United States. Reports have said thousands of children have been taken from their parents because of the directive.

Cruz initially defended the policy, saying: “As a U.S. citizen, if you commit a crime and get arrested, you’re separated from your kids. And if you’re the only caregiver, your children have to find alternative caregivers — whether family members, friends or foster care. What all the media attention on separation of families is really saying, is don’t incarcerate those who come here illegally.”

This week, Cruz announced the “Protect Kids and Parents Act,” which would increase the number of federal immigration judges from about 375 to 750; authorize temporary shelters where families can stay together; expedite processing and review of asylum cases to within 14 days; and mandate that illegal immigrant families be kept together, except in criminal conduct cases or where there is threat to the children.

Asylum cases can be complex, according to Vox.com. Each case needs testimony and reports about conditions of their home countries.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are working on modifying the “Zero Tolerance” policy, says NPR.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, since early May, some 2,332 children have been separated from their parents after illegally crossing the southern U.S. border.

 

Photo Courtesy: Unsplash/Cole Patrick

Publication Date: June 20, 2018

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The immigration crisis unfolding on the US-Mexico border continues to dominate the news. Nearly two thousand children have been separated from their parents since a “zero tolerance” policy was adopted for those entering the US illegally.

One facility in McAllen, Texas, houses two hundred such children. According to a migrant rights worker who visited the facility, one girl “was so traumatized that she wasn’t talking. She was just curled up in a little ball.” A quiet boy was seen clutching a piece of paper that was a photocopy of his mother’s ID card.

The head of the American Academy of Pediatrics visited a similar shelter in Texas, where she saw a toddler crying uncontrollably and pounding her little fists on a mat. She had been taken from her mother the night before and brought to the shelter.

Staff members gave her books and toys, but they weren’t allowed to pick her up, hold her, or hug her to try to calm her. As a rule, staff are not allowed to touch the children in the facility.

A “zero tolerance” policy

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told reporters last night that the “vast majority” of children being held in detention facilities were sent to the US alone by their parents. She stated that this issue “has resulted after years and years of Congress not taking action.” Others blame the Trump administration for the crisis.

My purpose is not to fix blame but to consider practical options. Let’s begin with some history.

In 2005, President George W. Bush launched Operation Streamline, a program that referred all unlawful entrants on the border for criminal prosecution. They were imprisoned, and their trials were expedited for the purpose of deporting them. However, exceptions were generally made for adults traveling with minor children.

The Obama administration detained illegal border crossers as families together in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody rather than criminal detention.

Last month, after Homeland Security reported a 203 percent increase in illegal border crossings over the past year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy directing Homeland Security officials to prosecute all cases of illegal entry into the US. Few exceptions were made for parents traveling with minor children.

The administration says it must separate children from parents because of the Flores agreement, a longstanding federal court settlement that bars the government from jailing migrant children. However, critics claim that nothing legally requires migrant families to be separated while their cases are being pursued.

Federal law requires a lengthier process for those seeking asylum. The children of these adults are separated from them for a much longer time. Complicating the situation even further, some adults reportedly pose with children who are not their own. And smugglers use rented or kidnapped children as cover.

As noted, nearly two thousand children have been separated from their parents and placed in mass detention centers or foster care since this policy began. More than one hundred are younger than four years old.

“A country that governs with heart”

Response has been strong and emotional.

Melania Trump’s office responded to the unfolding crisis: “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform. She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

Laura Bush stated in a Washington Post op-ed: “I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”

The other former First Ladies voiced their opposition, as have numerous Republican leaders.

In an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network, Franklin Graham said of the border crisis: “I think it’s disgraceful, it’s terrible, to see families ripped apart, and I don’t support that one bit. And I blame the politicians for the last twenty, thirty years that have allowed this to escalate to the point where it is today.”

What does the Bible say?

God’s word calls us to obey the government: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1). Border security is biblical: “When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples” (Deuteronomy 32:8). We are warned, “Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set” (Proverbs 22:2823:10).

At the same time, Scripture commands us: “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him” (Exodus 22:21). The Bible says that God “loves the sojourner” (Deuteronomy 10:18) and instructs us: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” (Hebrews 13:2).

The issue becomes even more complex when children are involved. Jesus said of them, “to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). The Bible calls children “a heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3).

Three options and my response

This is obviously a very complex issue without simple answers, but there seem to be three basic alternatives.

One: The government could choose not to prosecute illegal immigrants with children. However, we are a nation of laws. And we do not want to escalate the number of families attempting to enter the US illegally.

Two: The government could incarcerate and prosecute all parents who are illegal immigrants while placing their children in separate facilities (the current policy).

Three: The government could prosecute all illegal immigrants but keep families together in temporary shelters while their cases are pending, an approach Sen. Ted Cruz and other senators are supporting. Manpower could be increased to process immigrants as quickly as possible; asylum cases could be expedited.

According to the biblical worldview, when we are forced to choose between options, choose life.

Jesus taught us, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). We are a nation of laws, but our laws are intended to serve our people.

No law should victimize the innocent, especially children. Laura Bush concluded her op-ed: “In 2018, can we not as a nation find a kinder, more compassionate and more moral answer to this current crisis? I, for one, believe we can.”

I am praying she’s right.

NOTE:  Questions about our faith are common–to skeptics but to Christians as well. We all need clear, biblical responses motivated by grace.

That’s why I wrote my new booklet, Biblical Insight to Tough Questions. I’d like to send it to you to thank you for your gift to help others discern today’s news from a biblical perspective.

I hope the booklet helps you grow in your faith and engage our culture with truth you can trust. To receive your copy, click here.

For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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