This piece was originally published on March 19, 2013 at Patheos.
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American Evangelicals place a great deal of emphasis on protecting the nuclear family. One would think Evangelicals would also concern themselves with keeping families together in America, where one of the spouses is not here legally. While not all Evangelicals make this connection, many do.
I appreciate the Evangelical Immigration Table’s emphasis on “protecting the unity of the immediate family” and its call for a bi-partisan solution to the situation of immigration reform that “establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.”
Some will argue that failure to deport an undocumented individual who is married to an American or a legal resident is condoning disobedience. Actually, I am condoning and promoting compassion. I cannot do anything about the choices such a couple made to this point, but I can advocate for the government to make the right choice and help them stay together and raise their family in a nurturing environment where both parents are present legally.
This is no ivory tower issue that I engage as a seminary professor. A Hispanic pastor came to my office and presented to me the challenge he faces as an Evangelical to support an American father who is raising his baby alone now that his wife has been deported. The pastor told me how during a pastoral visit the father shared his angst about trying to work and care for the crying baby in his arms.
We cannot wash our hands of this situation or those countless other stories similar to it. Either we need to help raise the child or we are condoning separating families. People can say all they want about such couples needing to suffer the consequences of their past acts of disobedience alone. Where do they get the justification for that claim biblically? It is so calloused. I am thankful Jesus didn’t operate that way. He suffered the consequences of our actions for us and in our place, dying for our sins. Christians are called to a radical obedience of solidarity with offenders of the law no matter the consequences. Otherwise, from God’s vantage point, we’re not legally Christian.