Church leaders weigh in on immigration debate

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Church leaders are weighing in on the immigration debate following recent comments made by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sessions defended the policy of separating children from their parents when illegally crossing the border by quoting Romans Chapter 13. He said that people should follow the government’s laws because God has ordained the government for his purposes.

Many church leaders have spoken out against that, including Debra Wallace-Padgett, Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church. She sent CBS 42 this statement:

“As United Methodists we join countless others who have expressed their opposition and heartbreak regarding immigration policies that separate parents and children.  As our denomination’s Social Principles state, ‘We oppose immigration policies that separate family members from each other or that include detention of families with children.’ I urge our country’s administration to make changes to policies that separate children from their parents and to work to reunite families. I urge United Methodists to join me in praying for all involved in the current situation – children, families, care providers, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, our nation’s administration and policy makers, and those working for justice.  I additionally urge all of us to relate to one another in grace as we seek justice.”

Dr. Nathan Carden, pastor of the Church at Ross Bridge, also expressed disappointment with Sessions’ comments. He says the attorney general used the verse out of context and that Sessions’ views don’t mesh with other verses in the chapter about loving one’s neighbors.

“I was troubled because I felt as though he was taking a particular scripture and utilizing that to support a previously-held political conviction,” Carden said, “rather than looking at the broader witness of scripture, the example of Jesus Christ and then allowing the words and example of Jesus Christ to guide the policies that he supports.”  

Carden studied immigration and its impact in 2008 when spent 10 days in Mexico, New Mexico and Arizona learning about the issue. He toured a border patrol station and met some of the border patrol agents. He also went to community health centers and met with faith-based organizations that provide humanitarian aid to people who have crossed the border. He says immigration is a complex issues, but he his faith guides his view on it.

“I certainly believe and support as a Christian that we must have reasonable and just laws regarding the enforcement of our borders,” Carden said. “But to utilize family separation as a deterrent is not something that I, as a Christ follower, can support.”

He emphasized that these are his views, and they don’t represent the views of his congregation as a whole.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration is not backing down from its “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration that has led to many of the recent discussions about separation of families. On Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said that these separations don’t stem from any Trump Administration policy, but instead from loopholes in immigration laws.

“Until these loopholes are closed by Congress it is not possible, as a matter of law, to detain and remove whole family units who arrive illegally in the United States,” Nielsen said. “Congress and the courts created this problem and Congress alone can fix it. Until then we will enforce every law we have on the books to defend the sovereignty and security of the United States.”

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