President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday afternoon stating that families seeking asylum should be detained together when “appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.”
The order maintains the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy for illegal immigrants. It also instructs the Pentagon to make facilities available for the housing and care of immigrant families.
It directs the Attorney General to seek modification of the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement to allow alien families to be kept together “throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings.” And it requires the Attorney General to “prioritize the adjudication of cases involving detained families.”
In related news, the House will vote today on an immigration bill that would end family separations as part of a larger overhaul. “We can enforce our immigration laws without breaking families apart,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan.
God is “Father of the fatherless”
As I noted on Tuesday, illegal immigration is an especially complicated theological issue.
We are charged by Scripture with obeying the government (Romans 13:1), but we are also to care for immigrants (Exodus 22:21; Hebrews 13:2) and children (Mark 10:14). It is difficult to devise a solution that satisfies law enforcement supporters as well as advocates for immigrants and their families.
I want to focus today on those at the center of the storm: the children. More than 2,300 have now been separated from parents seeking asylum or attempting to enter the US illegally.
In addition, 437,500 children were in foster care in the US by the end of fiscal year 2016. Many are in the foster care system because of substance abuse by their parents. And more than 2.5 million children are homeless in the United States. This historic high represents one out of every thirty children in America.
Of all the demographics in society, children are especially cherished in God’s word.
God’s Son could have entered the human race in any way he wished. The fact that the One by whom “all things were created” (Colossians 1:16) chose to enter his creation as a baby tells us what God thinks of children.
To reinforce this priority during his earthly ministry, Jesus took children “in his arms and blessed them” (Mark 10:16). Now he wants us to do the same.
Neglecting or mistreating children is a grave offense to God. Jesus stated, “It is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14). Scripture proclaims: “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation” (Psalm 68:5).
We are warned: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).
One child can change the world
Any one of the children at the center of the border crisis could change the world. Consider a man whose recently published story I just read but whose impact on the world was immeasurable.
Josiah Henson was born into slavery. After horrific abuse from his owner, he led his family on a harrowing journey to Canada and freedom. Though he could barely read and could not write, Josiah became one of the most powerful orators, ministers, and businessmen of his day.
He founded a community for Africans in Canada that provided homes and livelihoods for thousands. He helped establish a school that educated generations. He made two fund-raising journeys to Great Britain, where he had a personal audience with Queen Victoria and preached in Charles Spurgeon’s church. He met personally with US President Rutherford Hayes as well.
Perhaps most notably, he served as the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel which unmasked the horrors of slavery in the Old South and played a decisive role in the Civil War.
No one who met Josiah Henson as a child could have imagined the eternal impact he would make on the world.
The hands by which we embrace the future
One child can indeed change the world. How can we pray for the children at the heart of the immigration crisis?
One: Ask God to protect them, provide for their needs, and unite them with their families quickly.
Two: Intercede for those ministering to children and families in the border area. Look for ways you and your church can partner with them to provide support for those in crisis.
Three: Pray urgently for our nation to value children as God does. Abortion is an ongoing tragedy that grieves the heart of God. Ronald Reagan was right: “Abortion is advocated only by persons who have themselves been born.” Child trafficking and child pornography are grievous, heinous sins.
Every crisis contains a call. The immigration conflict of our day is an opportunity to seek and share Jesus’ love for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40).
As Josiah Henson shows, children are the hands by which we embrace the future.