Focus on the Family’s decision to endorse the National Association of Evangelical’s bipartisan proposal on immigration reform has ignited a spirited dialogue within Christendom. To be candid, this doesn’t surprise me.
Does it surprise you?
The issue is a complex one, especially when it comes to finding a practical solution to the stalemate over what to do with the 12 million plus individuals who are living without proper documentation within our country. It’s easy to reduce the issue to the numbers, but the numbers have names – and each name is a person created in the image and likeness of a loving God. How we approach the issue must be first and foremost framed with that understanding in mind.
That the subject has elicited a strong reaction is a good thing. It is time for Christians to contribute in this area, to be “in the arena” and put our faith into action. It is not a time to stay silent, to go wobbly, or to “pass the buck” out of fear of offending a constituency.
Let’s face it. The immigration system is broken and unnecessarily burdening millions of individuals and families, both inside and outside of our borders. As believers in Jesus, we have a responsibility to ease suffering wherever and whenever possible and to be good citizens and neighbors in the process. I have always loved the poetic words of the apostle Paul on this topic. Writing to the Hebrews he said, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).
And so, as we wade into these waters, it might be helpful to try and remember to see things first as God sees it – not from any partisan point of view, but from His perspective.
I want to thank the many people who have thoughtfully responded and expressed themselves to me via this blog and our team here at Focus. Many have raised valid concerns and questions. I thought it might be helpful to address some of the more common questions and concerns that stemmed from the NAE statement.
Some have suggested that no matter how you try to define it, allowing undocumented immigrants to stay is “amnesty.” This is a fair question, but the dictionary defines “amnesty” as the act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals.
Speaking on behalf of Focus, we advocate punishment and restitution for individuals, not pardon for groups. Some who are here illegally would come out of the shadows, confess their guilt and pay whatever fine is required if they knew that they wouldn’t immediately be arrested and deported. Deportation would only leave their families destitute and throw more people on the welfare rolls. We want to keep families intact and able to support themselves.
Yet, some have suggested that our proposal punishes those families from other countries who are trying to immigrate legally. The problem is that the lines ostensibly established for legal immigration/entrance visas don’t move in a timely fashion as it is. The system isn’t working well for anyone. We’d like to see that change, which is one of the reasons we’ve endorsed the NAE proposal.
Some of the more pointed criticism has asked how it’s either “compassionate” or “Christian” to encourage lawbreaking. I don’t believe it’s either of those, but laws should be applied fairly. There are jobs available for people here illegally because American employers hire them, in violation of the law. We advocate uniform enforcement of the laws that prohibit the hiring of people here illegally.
To be clear, we are not encouraging “lawbreaking.” Our own Focus on the Family statement, which can be read by clicking here, and the National Association of Evangelicals’ statement that I signed, which can be read by clicking here both very clearly assert that any reforms to our current immigration processes be done with respect for the rule of law.
Some have also suggested that we’re “giving cover” to the Obama Administration on this issue, but what we advocate is much different than the White House policy unveiled last Friday. The Obama Administration does indeed propose an amnesty of sorts to a large group of young people here illegally. We believe that to allow youths and young adults to remain while deporting their parents is a horrible way to treat nuclear families.
Furthermore, it should be noted we had no conversations with the White House or foreknowledge of the president’s Friday immigration comments. Our own statement was crafted after a thorough discussion by our Board of Directors and after many discussions by our staff with experts on all sides of the issue.
The statement has this as its stated purpose: To include “high regard for the rule of law” and “a mandate for the care of foreigners in our midst in ways that recognize all are created in God’s image and of inestimable value.”
Finally, some have suggested that the idea that enforcing the law against illegal immigrants destroys families is a red herring—that the blame lies with those choosing to break the law. After all, they can return to their home countries with their families.
Frankly, we disagree. Uprooting families is always tragic, particularly those who came here to escape economic misery. They stayed because American employers gave them jobs—and continue to do so–in spite of federal laws prohibiting the practice. If these laws were enforced, the hiring of undocumented workers would cease. The blame lies on both sides of the equation.
You will also want to know there’s nothing in our board of directors’ statement, or the National Association of Evangelicals statement we signed on to, that advocates failure to enforce the law against people illegally in our country. Both documents make clear that respecting and following the rule of law must be a key to any workable immigration reform.
The challenges before us regarding immigration reform are great but they are not insurmountable, especially when they’re tackled with a Christian worldview. This NAE proposal is not perfect, but it’s a good start. By signing it we’re hoping to demonstrate that when it comes to finding a solution to this complex matter, it’s possible to be both principled and practical, all the while living a life that best reflects God’s heart.