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Alabama pastor’s analysis of immigrant parent-child border separation controversy

Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

BORDER IMMIGRATION SITUATION? WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN VIEWPOINT?

(Editor’s note: This transcript is edited to reflect Wednesday’s news that President Trump signed an executive order meant to keep families together and stop border separation.)

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, immigration is back in the headlines. It now appears there are illegal immigrants coming across with their families — at least there’s an appearance that they’re a family unit. If they’re seeking asylum and they don’t come in through a legal port of entry, the parents were being separated from the children. Individuals on one side are saying such a practice is cruel and inhumane and individuals on the other side said the U.S. was following the law.

Washington Free Beacon senior writer, Elizabeth Harrington, said that the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy was simply enforcing laws already on the book and meant to disincentivize people from entering the U.S. illegally.

DR. REEDER: From a Christian world and life view, you’ve got the necessity and the call to submit to lawful laws so is the immigration lawful? Secondly, you’ve got the institution of the family that is foundational to culture and that is foundational to the well-being of individuals so the separation of children from parents is never to be thoughtlessly embraced.

Is it right for a nation to determine its borders and immigration policies? Well, of course it is. We would say that about families, wouldn’t we? When you have a house, it’s okay to have doors and walls. The name of hospitality does not require you to abandon security for your family.

Well, the same thing is true for a nation. We are to be an immigration-friendly country. That has been our policy from the very beginning and that’s why we’ve got that Statue of Liberty — “Give me your poor, give me your helpless.” We’ll take them and we will see what the American culture can do in their lives with its Constitution, its Bill of Rights and its values.

REVISITING ELLIS ISLAND IMMIGRATION AND THAT MINDSET OF FAIR REFUGE

TOM LAMPRECHT: When immigrants came in and saw the statue of liberty, they did have to go through a process at Ellis Island.

DR. REEDER: Exactly, Tom, and that was in the era from the 1830s all the way to the mid-20th century when this nation had a very inviting immigration policy — but it did have a policy, it did have a process. There was and Ellis Island that you went to.

Is that valid from a Christian world and life view? Yes. Should we be immigrant friendly? Yes. Should we be welcoming? Yes. That is Biblical and it is historical for this nation. It’s good for the nation and it’s good for the immigrants to have a policy and a process.

Now, a second observation that I would make, when you violate the law, does it affect your personal life and your family? Yes. There are multiple laws that, when you violate those laws, it separates your family. There are people that go off into prison and their children are left behind.

THERE IS AN IMPORTANT ROLE OF THE CHURCH: SERVE THE PEOPLE IN CHARITY

That gets me to a third observation: What should the church do in cases like that? In this situation right now, we should bring analysis to the policy and the process and we should insist and speak to public policy and tell our government to have a welcoming but thoughtful immigration policy and process. In the present situation, the church of Jesus Christ should be reaching out to these individuals on a personal basis of ministry and on a personal basis, particular ministry, in the lives of families that are undergoing this separation — we need to be there. We’re going to minister to people — that’s what we’re going to do.

IMMIGRATION LAWS ARE A MESS, BUT DO FAMILIES NEED TO SUFFER TO PROVE A POINT?

Now, do I believe you need to have a law and a process? Absolutely. Will we submit to it? Yes, but the church is going to do its job of ministering to people made in the image of God. We’re going to feed people, we’re going to clothe people, we’re going to share the Gospel with people and we’re going to love people.

We have to ask ourselves a question: Do we have to separate families? I am fully aware that there is a tactic that is being used by the traffickers of illegal immigrants that says that the previous administration had set up a process so that, if you show up on the border, you’re not at a port of entry but you claim asylum and if you have children, they will let you in, tell you to report on a monthly basis and then you can kind of blend in. It became known as a tactic so, “Bring your children.” And then also the tactic of make up families that actually weren’t families, but actually the kidnapping of children, to put with adults to say that they’re families in order to gain this tactic.

Then our present administration is saying we are trying to do this to show people how horrific our lack of a policy is. This is a tactic to try to stop people from bringing children and it’s a tactic to try to get the Congress to come up with a policy so we don’t do this anymore.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, to that end, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, said this: “Surely, it’s the beginning of the unraveling of democracy when the body who makes the laws, rather than changing them, asks the body who enforces the laws not to enforce the laws. That cannot be the answer,” she said.

DR. REEDER: And I agree with her on that. I also think that you can think through how to enforce the laws in the least unnecessarily punitive way for the well-being of the defenseless, which I see as the children in this situation.

CALL TO ACTION FOR LAWMAKERS TO ACT IMMEDIATELY AND WISELY

Finally, let me just say this, as a pastor, from a Christian world and life view, not only am I pleading with the lawmakers of this nation to bite the bullet politically and do what needs to be done to get a welcoming yet clear policy and process of immigration in place and a resolve to enforce that policy through its laws.

Not only am I pleading with you to do that, but right now I’m asking you to find something else to do rather than separating children from their parents. I understand there are a number of these families that aren’t true families, but they are true children. My heart just goes out to these children and something has to be done.

What I find interesting is looking at the people who are appealing to the Bible to “let the children come unto me,” who are the same people who are supporting policies to kill those children in the womb. When I see that contradiction, Tom, I am overwhelmed. I see a politician politically grandstanding, quoting the Bible — “Suffer the children to come unto me” — and, at the same time, promoting a policy to kill children in their most defenseless place, which is in the womb. I find it so hard not to say, as the current generation says, “Just blow up my head,” at that moment. That’s exactly what it feels like to me.

THIS IS A SANCTITY OF LIFE ISSUE, TOO

However, on the other hand, to those who hold to the sanctity of life of children in the womb, you’ve got to find a way to affirm the sanctity of life of those children. Those are real children. Yes, they may be pawns and, yes, they may be being used by adults — yes to all of that — but they are still children and they cannot be taken away from parents unless it is absolutely essential. If we can find another way to do it, we’ve got to find another way to do it and I appeal to you to find another way to do it. Even if it’s creating a bigger and better funded Ellis Island approach, you’ve got to find a way to do that. That would be my exhortation.

Therefore, to our politicians: grow up and fix this thing. Fix it so that we are a refuge nation yet we are a nation that is secure and properly managing its borders. Secondly, affirm the sanctity of the family, and the sanctity of life and the sanctity of these children and find a way to do that while you uphold the law.

COMING UP MONDAY: POLITICANS QUOTING SCRIPTURE FOR OWN PURPOSES BUT WHAT DID IT REALLY MEAN?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, let’s take one of our upcoming programs and go back to something you mentioned towards the close and that is politicians using the Bible both on the left and on the right to further their agendas, which is something we haven’t seen in awhile.

DR. REEDER: Am I glad to hear our politicians and elected officials using the Bible? Absolutely. But how do you use the Bible and what was Jesus saying when he said, “Suffer the children to come unto me,” and what was Paul saying when he said to be submissive to the governing authorities?

Is that a blanket obedience of every law as the Nazi regime said when it quoted that passage or is it a thoughtful call to always being under a governing authority, yet that does not mean the acceptance of unjust law and there comes a time you must obey God rather than man? Let’s talk about that in our next program.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

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