Immigration Law and Grace

I got into a conversation about immigration on Facebook this week.  I try to stay away from controversy on Facebook because, well, you can understand why.  Brent Hobbs, one of the contributors at SBC Voices posted this article:  Pastor Carias

The responses were mixed and emotional.  There were those who declared Pastor Carias’ deportation a crime and a tragedy.  There were those who unequivocally sided with the Trump administration no matter how awful this story appeared.  

I was emotional at first.  How dare this administration deport a pastor?  What about all the murderers and rapists they were supposed to deport?  Doesn’t the current adminstration have more pressing problems than Christians who are here illegally? 

I’m still asking those questions, but I have calmed down and would like to offer a more measured response to this situation.

First, many of us expect the law to provide grace:  “This pastor should be allowed to stay with his family because the immigration laws have been loosely enforced for decades.” 

The law cannot provide grace.  I wish it could, but it cannot.  If the law provided grace, then it would cease being the law.  This is why the law of the Bible cannot save us, but can only point out our need for a Savior.  Paul spends a fair amount of time discussing the Law’s purpose in Romans.   There will be no grace from the law and no grace given by this administration.  We should not expect any.  

Second, there are those who want the immigration laws enforced to the letter, right now, no questions asked. 

When a Boeing 737 lands, it needs between 2000 and 3000 yards of runway to stop.  If the runway is too short, the plane will careen off the end and there will probably be casualties.  The federal bureaucracy is like a Boeing 737.  It cannot be moved or stopped on a dime.  If we want our federal government to pivot that quickly, then we’d better have an answer for the victims’ families, and that answer cannot be, “I’m sorry, but you’re out of luck.”  

That leads me to my next point.  What should our answer, as Christians, be?  Our answer should be,  “I know this stinks pastor Carias, but how can we help you become a citizen, and how can we help provide for your family until that happens?”  The Christian leaders who urged us to support candidate Trump have been strangely silent when it comes to helping the victims of our immigration nightmare.

(I know some will say any illegal immigrant here cannot be called a victim; in fact, Pastor Carias – our test case, if you will – has been deported on three separate occasions, falsified document, and lied to immigration officials.  Still, this man who has broken no American law apart from those related to his immigration status, has a wife and children who have broken no laws at all. They, and many other families in similar situations, are impacted. They are victims here.)

Finally, for those who want the letter of the law enforced with no exceptions, I have a few questions:

1. Why did the Christian community recently beg the Trump administration not to deport Iraqi Christians?  Must it take death threats before you’re willing to advocate for grace? 

2. Why do you throw hissy fits when Americans get arrested and detained for breaking laws in other countries?  They may not be our laws, but they are the laws of a sovereign nation.  Why do you beg for grace from other countries when our citizens break their laws  (but when our laws get broken, they must be rigidly enforced)?  Why do you seem to want it both ways? 

3. What makes you declare that the immigration laws have been loosely enforced for only the past eight years?  The Obama administration actually deported more illegal aliens than the Bush administration.  (Obama Administration Deportations)

I want immigration laws to be enforced, but the 737 that is our democracy needs enough room to maneuver, and Christians should be more thoughtful in their advocacy of tough enforcement.  You’re not punishing the Obama administration or the Democratic Party by supporting immediate, no-holds-barred, no-mercy enforcement.  You’re punishing real people with families. That should give us all pause.

For a thorough discussion of DACA and its effects on dreamers read Alan Cross’ blog post on SBC Voices here:  The Coming Crisis: Why We Should Speak/Act on Behalf of Immigrant Dreamers Right Now

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