Jeff Sessions recently came out in defense of the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents as they seek refuge and asylum at the border, and the actions of ICE. To justify this policy, Sessions cited a chapter from the Bible, Romans 13. The use of Romans 13, or rather just 13:1 to justify the administration’s actions is, to me, disingenuous.
While it does say that you should submit to the governing authority as all such authority has been placed by God, there is important context that Sessions has refused to acknowledge. First of all, it’s a letter from Paul to the Romans. The people he’s speaking to here are Christian Jews living in Rome. He’s telling them to follow the laws of Rome in addition to their religious laws. Secondly, this obviously takes place in the time of emperors and kings, not democratically elected civilians. This has been used in part to justify the so-called Divine Right. Thirdly, Sessions is a politician. He has made his career, particularly in the Obama years and now, working to undermine, repeal, change, and enact new laws rather than just submit to existing law. And that’s just the issues that immediately come to mind with that single verse.
If you keep reading, 13:2 has some rather harsh words to say about those who rebel or revolt against the governing authorities (that are allegedly put in place in by God). Remind me again how the United States began. Wasn’t it a rebellion against a king? Does that suggest that the US is inherently a government founded against God and God’s plan, existing in defiance of ordained authority? If that’s the case, then are the laws of the United States Godly laws or opposed to God? Should those laws be submitted to and defended as rigid and rightly placed by the Lord? Or is it more appropriate to suggest that these are laws of Man, not God, and therefore can and should be challenged, repealed, and broken when unjust?
But don’t stop there. Go on to Romans 13:6-7. “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” Holy shit. An order to pay taxes in the Bible because a government is necessary for the general welfare of the people. Remind me the standard Republican position on the role of government and the collection of taxes. Is Jeff Sessions really the best person to cite Romans, any of it, let alone Chapter 13 as it relates to the duties and functions of government?
None of this, of course, even touches on what the Bible says about welcoming refugees, either in the Old or New Testament. These passages are too numerous for me to quote here, but suffice it to say that neither Jesus nor God would approve of policies of turning away those seeking refuge or asylum, let alone what this administration is doing to the children, physically ripping them away from nursing mothers at gun point.
But let us suppose for a moment that Sessions is correct in his application of Romans 13:1 and it is appropriate and Godly to enforce such laws regardless of how humane they may or may not be. Sessions is still incorrect, to be as polite as possible, as there is no law that requires the forcible separation of children from their parents. This is a policy that Sessions created out of whole cloth and chose to inflict on some of the most vulnerable people all of his own accord. I cannot look into his heart, so I do not know if this brings him pleasure, but he certainly doesn’t seem to be very distraught about these actions. Indeed, his vigorous defense of this policy suggests that at the very least he is not bothered by it and this unnecessary cruelty does not weigh on his conscious one iota. Further, the continual defense of such a policy by this administration, coming from Sessions, Sanders, and Trump as enforcing a law that does not exist – with Trump even going so far as to blame Democrats for passing the law – sets them up for further damnation as they are violating one of the oldest commandments set forth directly from God: Thou shall not bear false witness. They are liars. Full stop.
Let us now turn to a problem with Session’s position that is less Biblical in nature. This is a secular nation. The laws of the United States are created and instituted by men, not God. Sessions may or may not genuinely feel that his God calls him to enforce the laws of the nation, and that’s rather immaterial, his motivation. It is his duty, both as an official of the United States and as a God fearing man to follow and enforce the laws of the governing authority, that is the United States, not the laws of his or any other God. Is this not the meaning of the cited passage, anyway?
From all of this though, I haven’t even begun to touch on the policy itself or the actions of ICE, which I find to be beyond abhorrent and absolutely reprehensible. Recently the head of ICE, or their spokesman, complained about being compared to Nazis and calling this comparison unfair. So, let’s take a look at these comparisons. Are ICE systematically murdering those they apprehend, either in murder factories or through unending brutal slave labor? No. At least not that we know of. They are however ripping children away from their parents, creating a sort of Sophie’s Choice for these parents: Stay in their homeland and almost certainly face death, or be brutalized by the very people who are tasked with their protection, however temporary, as their cases are heard.
I have read that some of these parents are being told that their children are being taken from them under the guise of needing to be bathed and checked for infestation and infection – showers – and only hours later does it dawn on them that their children aren’t coming back. Their property, such that they can carry, is confiscated, and children are put in one camp as their parents are put in another. There is no contact and no information about their whereabouts or their wellbeing.
ICE agents have detained American citizens of Hispanic heritage, citing a lack of proper papers. These citizens are targeted for merely looking too brown or for speaking Spanish in public. These are American citizens, either born or properly and legally naturalized.
Also, a story was published yesterday about ICE arresting and submitting for consideration for deportation a legal resident who has lived in the United States for the last 50 years. Apparently, he had a domestic violence charge some 20 years ago, for which he served his debt. This charge can be grounds for expulsion, and I’m not defending domestic violence, but two things immediately jump out at me about this report. First, ICE is seemingly unable or unwilling to go after undocumented migrants who are here in violation of US law (even though this is still a low level misdemeanor on par with shoplifting) and who are known to be human traffickers, drug runners, or engaging in illegal weapons sales. Instead, they are combing the databases of legal immigrants looking for even the smallest of charges to use an excuse to deport. The other thing is that domestic violence is, by order of Sessions, no longer an acceptable reason for one to seek asylum in the United States as Sessions does not feel it is a serious enough situation to justify asylum. At the same time however, he considers it serious enough to justify deportation.
Finally, there is this rationale offered by ICE as to why, in spite of all of these things, it is unfair to compare them to Nazis. They are, according to the head of the department, merely “following orders.”