Lately, there has been a huge emotional reaction against the Trump administration for separating children of illegal immigrant parents who are undergoing criminal proceedings for crossing the border illegally. The loudest voice is on the left because they obviously hate Trump for everything (ironic, given their disdain for the family unit in general), but many on the right as well have been vehemently critical of the administration’s handling of this issue because it seems to strike at the family. Though most children in federal custody came across the border alone, there are still about 2,000 children that have been separated from their parents (or alleged parents) that the federal government has to figure out what to do with.
However, though simplistic takes are legion (as usual), this is a more complicated situation than many think. Frankly, it is obviously more complicated than what the Trump administration itself thought because it severely underestimated the problem that would be on its hands after adopting this zero tolerance policy against illegal migrants. Add yet another bungled reference to Romans 13 from AG Jeff Sessions, and you have an administration that isn’t exactly on top of things here. On a summary note: No, Mr. Sessions, Romans 13 does not mean absolute submission to the government and certainly does not mean we cannot criticize it.
In any case, Christians should be concerned about this because while Sessions’ and Jeffries’ use of Romans 13 in the past have been bad, the text still teaches that we should try to be good citizens who obey and respect laws. We should also obviously care about the family unit and children, and certainly, the family is far more important to Christians than to progressives who often find it to be an institution of oppression. Also, Christians should care about those in need. Even if someone is not a Christian, they should be able to agree that children are important, laws are important, and families are important. It creates a tricky problem for this reason (and let me make this very clear): If the law is enforced thoroughly and consistently, then this situation is unavoidable if illegal immigrants are caught and especially if they claim asylum.
Much of the media pretends that Donald Trump made this up and is doing this because he is this big evil man. This is not true: Trump did not make this up, but what he’s doing is enforcing the law comprehensively. You may not like it; you may dislike the law or you may think that his administration should not have enforced it, but you can’t claim that he just pulled this out of thin air. Even SBC leader Al Mohler was wrong on this he said in one of his briefings that no law requires that this happen (in fairness, he seemed to show some awareness later in that briefing that there IS a law about this, though he criticizes Trump’s administration for enforcing it).
There are a few laws that are operating here:
-Obviously, illegal immigration laws.
–The law that children cannot be detained for more than 20 days, and this was extended to children of family units by the Ninth Circuit Court.
There are accusations that the Ninth Circuit did this in order to get these families released into the general population quickly, effectively aiding illegal immigration. Regardless, it created this situation: If an illegal immigrant is detained and prosecuted and especially if he claims asylum, it is almost impossible to keep him with his children. By rule of law, Trump’s administration CANNOT keep the children with their detained parents. Indeed, if he tried, we would undoubtedly see the media rip him for “jailing” children, which is actually against the law here.
This is why defenses on the Left that “no law forced Trump to do this” are incredibly, embarrassingly disingenuous. They only say that because they don’t want laws on immigration enforced. It’s a load of baloney to be party to this mess of laws that we have and then get mad at someone who is trying to consistently enforce them while avoiding blame. It’s shocking how stupid this is.
Here’s the reality: Illegal immigration is a crime. First, it’s a misdemeanor, and then attempted re-entry is a felony. The United States has every right to try to regulate its borders like any other country, though its history of doing this is downright bad, from racist policies in the early 20th century all the way to our current mess. Having bad laws and/or not enforcing immigration laws have consequences: We have a harder time keeping immigrants that we want (even those who have gone to American universities and want to stay and work), it deters nobody from breaking our laws, and it makes it more likely that people come in who neither respect our laws or our culture, which even small in number can cause significant damage. If the Trump administration tries to enforce the laws that exist right now, there is no way to avoid separating children from their parents who knowingly broke the laws of the nation.
Furthermore, if parents, after prosecuted for a misdemeanor, simply choose to return home, they are returned with their families, and this process tends to be relatively quick. What’s NOT quick is when they want to claim asylum. There is nothing wrong with doing that, and in many cases it is understandable given where they come from. The thing is, this process takes a lot longer, and the government cannot risk simply releasing this person into the populace, likely to not be found again. Asylum proceedings take a while and almost certainly go beyond the 20 day limit that children can be detained before being released into some sort of child care service.
The Delicate Issue of Enforcement
Illegal immigration went down early in Trump’s administration because people thought he’d enforce the border more per his campaign promises. When it became clear that nothing was happening, illegal immigration spiked again, and the Trump administration tried to respond by prosecuting everyone, even if a family unit came. People have realized for quite a while that coming with children is way to avoid prosecution and possibly be allowed to stay, which is why it has become more common practice that adults falsely claim to be the parents of children that have gone with them. Bush and Obama avoided prosecuting them because they foresaw the political difficulties of having thousands of children in custody, but that’s not justification of the current laws: If anything, it shows the enormous deficiencies of the laws that we have.
There is legitimate criticism of the wisdom of the Trump administration here because it clearly had no idea what kind of can of worms it was opening. Still, this means the laws need to be addressed, but Congress and especially the Left seem to have zero intention of creating laws that make border security better, more efficient, and more charitable because that would be a loss of a political weapon.
Now of course there is no law that says, “Thou must separate children of illegal immigrants.” It’s the cumulative effect of the laws above that make this happen when they are enforced with consistency. Should Trump have simply avoided enforcing it because its result stinks? Again, maybe, but that can create a slippery slope. Remember, it is the job of the executive branch to enforce laws, even ones it may not like. Conservatives, after all, ripped Obama for picking and choosing sometimes, and liberals would obviously do the same if Trump simply ignored a law that he didn’t like but they cherished.
The Main Issue
Here’s who deserves the spotlight: Congress, and anyone who tries to stand in the way of reasonable immigration laws that actually have teeth and have the backing of enforcement (including judges). Immigration laws are broken in this country, and I’m annoyed to the point that I may even throw up my hands and agree with some libertarians that we should just have open borders because governments suck (I think that’s a bad idea for several reasons, but this is getting irritating).
Nobody wants to see children torn away from actual loving parents (well, except for some extreme Leftists who want the state to raise kids and keep them away from religious conservatives who try to homeschool, but I digress…). There are possible solutions out there such as increasing the capacity to keep family units together while they await the results of their asylum claim or criminal proceedings. One solution should not be simply ignoring the sovereignty of the United States, and the other outcome, keeping kids from their parents for long periods of time, is also problematic on many levels.
This is a complex problem that needs wise people working through it, all with the understanding that no solution will be completely perfect and that there should be genuine understanding on both sides. Unfortunately, Congress is not interested in that and hasn’t been interested since forever, so good luck with that. But at the least, we should see what the real problem is: It’s not Trump trying to be an evil mastermind but a broken set of laws created by a bunch of prideful idiots in our legislative and judicial branches who aren’t kept accountable by the populace.