Today a widespread series of raids are taking place by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) across the country as they target and crackdown on recently arrived illegal immigrants. This event has been widely publicized in advance. Citizens within the ten cities where the raids are focused have planned protests that will be ongoing throughout today. Critics of the Trump administration have called this an act of government terror. More than 2,000 illegal immigrants will be arrested before the end of the day.
Today’s ICE raids follow yesterday’s visit by Vice President Mike Pence to the border detention facilities where hundreds of men and women are being housed in overcrowded, and critics say unsanitary, conditions. It is not clear what political purpose this visit was intended to achieve. Even Republicans were bothered by the scenes presented through the Vice President’s tour of the facilities.
Politics and Posturing
I have written before on a government’s right and duty to enforce its borders and laws. This is a fundamental basis for international relations and the modern world order. Nations have a right to govern their borders as they see fit – and they are subject to the consequences of those policies.
In the midst of all the drama over the immigration issue this weekend there is also the reality of political posturing and narratives being tossed about by both the media and our leaders.
President Trump is a showman. Deportations and ICE raids have been taking place for some time but his announcements and posturing have led the media and the nation to watch this weekend and its drama with specific interest. A large part of this is a show that is unfortunately played out in the real lives of the immigrants who will be arrested today. This is reality tv of the worst kind.
On the other side, President Trump’s deportations still do not meet the level of crackdown achieved by his predecessor, President Obama. The chart below from CNN demonstrates how President Obama earned the nickname, if not in the media at least among immigrants and their advocates, as the “Deporter in Chief.”
President Obama far outdid President Trump in deportations. The greatest difference between the two is how President Trump tries to build political capital out of his tough guy policies while President Obama managed to keep his policies and their effects somewhat muted in the public discourse. The media has facilitated both Presidents in their desired ends. The mainstream media barely reported on President Obama’s real-life policies and their effects on immigrants while there is a constant state of outrage toward President Trump’s.
- Read also: All Presidents Are Deporters in Chief (NYT)
A Christian Perspective On Immigration (and other political issues)
Behind the politics, divisions, and hype however, there is a stronger position which Christians should be giving their focus to: What is the correct response to this issue in the eyes of God?
We can have a mix of political opinions and still hold the same faith. Politics is not an area we all have to agree upon as our personal perspectives are informed from a variety of sources including unique individual experience. At the end of the day however, no political opinion should be so highly prized so that it is not subordinated to the values and standards of our faith.
Jesus laid out a very clear standard when it comes to the treatment of the weak, poor, or disenfranchised of our society.
Whatever you have done for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me. Matthew 25:40
This standard is directly linked to how we treat the weak in our society. Jesus referred to them as “the least.”
‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to.’ Matthew 25:35,36
These words of Christ are not an endorsement of a politicized gospel that some theologians embraced throughout history. For example, many used this passage to support a state welfare system that feeds and clothes the poor. That seems to be a bit of a stretch to me and puts the federal government in the place where the Body of Christ was designed to stand.
However, as individual Christians, taking too strong a stance for or against various government policies that impact the lives of the poor, the hungry, or the strangers (such as immigrants or refugees), can put us in danger of being on the wrong side of this clear standard established by Christ.
“Then He will say to those on His left, Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and di not take care of you?’ “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the last of these, you did not do it to Me.” “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:41-46
We live in a polarized era of politics and social change. It is an environment ripe for deception and anxiety. Believers have access to a higher standard and way of life. That higher way is what sets us free (John 8:32). It is what frees us from the endless cycle of debate, outrage, and fear that is perpetuated in the media and among our leaders. Believers have a right to their political opinions but they have an obligation to identify perspectives founded upon the word of God. Opinions of all kinds will fade away in the end but the standards of the Kingdom of God will endure forever.