IS THERE A SPIRITUAL ISSUE BEHIND THE IMMIGRATION DEBATE?

Immigration is the top issue determining how registered voters will cast their ballot in the November mid-term elections, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted between June 28 and July 2.[1] According to Reuters, “Americans are squarely divided along partisan lines on Trump’s stance on immigration: Eighty-one percent of Republicans said they approve of his handling of the issue while 84 percent of registered Democrats said they disapprove.”[2] Although it may be tempting to dismiss such a poll as being little more than partisan politics, this poll ought to serve as a beacon, warning our nation that it is in jeopardy because of its spiritual waywardness.

 

Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president in 2016, the subject of illegal immigration has been a political lightening rod. In January of 2017, President Trump ordered the immediate construction of a wall along our southern border,[3] and he has directed immigration officials to prioritize the deportation of any undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes.[4] Furthermore, President Trump has endeavored to greatly reduce the number of Syrian refugees our country is welcoming and to temporarily suspend immigration from seven countries considered to have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.”

[5][6]

Decried by the media as a “Muslim ban,”[7] President Trump’s executive order was blocked by a federal judge in Hawaii, along with two subsequent drafts. Nevertheless, in a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the President’s authority to restrict travel from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea, and Venezuela.[8] Similarly, the media has decried the practice of separating children from illegal immigrants who are incarcerated, and a federal judge in California issued a nationwide injunction suspending the separation and ordering that all families already separated be reunited within 30 days.[9] This despite Attorney General Jeff Sessions having stated that “Because of the Flores consent decree and a 9th Circuit decision, ICE can only keep families detained together for a very short period of time.”[10]

 

In a blatant act of defiance against the Department of Justice, several cities and counties have refused to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), choosing instead to protect illegal immigrants. According to the Ohio Jobs and Justice PAC, which claims to feature the original non-governmental list of sanctuary cities, 529 cities and counties in 38 states are providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.[11] This despite Title 8 U.S. Code, section 1373 which states, “[A] Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.”[12] Likewise, Title 8 U.S. Code, section 1324 states, “Any person who, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, conceals, harbors, or shields from detection, such alien in any place, including any building or any means of transportation; … shall be fined under title 18, imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.”[13]

 

In the days following President Trump’s election, Chicago city mayor Rahm Emanuel announced in a news conference, “To all those who are, after Tuesday’s election, very nervous and filled with anxiety … you are safe in Chicago, you are secure in Chicago and you are supported in Chicago. Chicago has in the past been a sanctuary city. … It always will be a sanctuary city.”[14] Chicago has even sued to prevent the Trump administration from enforcing policies that would withhold federal money from cities that deny ICE access to local jails.[15]

 

In Oakland, California, Mayor Libby Schaaf issued a news release warning that “multiple credible sources” had confirmed that ICE “is preparing to conduct an operation in the Bay Area, including Oakland, starting as soon as within the next 24 hours.”[16] ICE had targeted 1,000 people for arrest, and it is believed that many eluded capture because of the mayor’s tip.[17] ICE acting director Thomas Homan said, “These are people who are already here illegally and yet committed another crime, and have been convicted of a crime. She gave them warning, and there were 800 that we were unable to locate because of that warning, so that community is a lot less safe than it would have been.”[18] According to ICE, of the 232 individuals arrested, “180 were either convicted criminals, had been issued a final order of removal and failed to depart the United States, or had been previously removed from the United States and returned illegally. 115 had prior felony convictions for serious or violent offenses, such as child sex crimes, weapons charges, and assault, or had past convictions for significant or multiple misdemeanors.”[19]

 

Also in California, Governor Jerry Brown pardoned “two men who were on the verge of being deported for committing crimes while in the U.S.”[20] Three months later, he pardoned five more illegal immigrants who were facing deportation.[21] Likewise, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pardoned Carlos Cardona to prevent his deportation.[22] Six months later, he pardoned 18 immigrants from Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, and Colombia “in an effort to free them from the threat of deportation or other immigration-related issues” and made the statement, “While the federal government continues to target immigrants and threatens to tear families apart with deportation, these actions take a critical step toward a more just, more fair and more compassionate New York.”[23][24] And now Governor Cuomo has pardoned another seven illegal immigrants this week.[25][26]

 

In New Jersey, “undocumented and unafraid” immigrants marched through the streets of Newark shouting, “No papers, no fear!”[27] In fact, many of the country’s more than 11 million undocumented immigrants are becoming emboldened to step out from the shadows and become activists for immigrant rights, protesting in the streets, speaking at news conferences, and being interviewed on cable news.[28]

 

U.S. Congressmen are reluctant to use the term “illegal” of undocumented immigrants who crossed the border illegally. Increasingly, legal and illegal immigrants are lumped together and equated in political debates. And some states have issued illegal immigrants drivers licenses,[29] student financial aid,[30] and the right to vote.[31] California is striving to secure for them Medicaid coverage[32] and has even introduced a bill that would grant illegal immigrants the right to serve on all state and local boards and commissions.[33]

 

Certainly, it can be said that the foreigner is rising in influence among us, and the influence of American citizens is being reduced. When illegal aliens feel emboldened to openly march in the streets of America demanding rights while our Congressmen are fearful of even acknowledging their legal status, it can be said that the foreigner has risen in influence among us. When our president is unable to enforce immigration policy, and our Congressmen are eager to open the border to families crossing illegally in an effort to keep them together, it can be said that the foreigner has risen in influence among us.[34] When governors are pardoning people primarily to thwart ICE and to protect them from deportation, it can be said that the foreigner has risen in influence among us. And when illegal immigrants are granted all the rights and privileges of citizenship without a change of allegiance, it can be said that the foreigner is rising in influence among us.

 

This is deeply troubling because God warned the Jewish nation that if they failed to obey God’s commands, He would allow the foreigner among them to rise in influence and would reduce their influence, “[I]f you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you: … The foreigners who reside among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower” (Deut. 28:15 and 43, NIV).

 

God permitted the Jews to invade and conquer the mighty Canaanite nations because of those nations’ sins (Lev. 18:24–25), and He warned the Jews to be obedient to Him, lest the foreigner rise within their nation and eventually overthrow them. The Bible repeatedly speaks of how God uses the foreigner to judge nations in sin. He permits foreigners to make demands, to oppress, and sometimes even to invade and conquer nations in sin (Isa. 1:1–7; Jer. 51:1–5; Lam. 5; Eze. 28:1–7; Amos 4:10). One litmus test for determining the spiritual condition of a nation is to evaluate the influence foreigners exert over that nation. In the case of America, we are failing this litmus test. Rather than dismiss this as the result of poor political decisions, we ought to be discerning enough to recognize that God is striving to capture our attention.

 

God wants us to stop rebelling against His commands. At the heart of the immigration debate is a spiritual waywardness that is manifesting itself in the political realm. Until we repent of our rebellious spirit, why should God restore our prominence and protect us from foreign influence?

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Timothy Zebell

Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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1. Caspani, Maria. “Immigration Top Issue for U.S. Voters, Economy a Close Second: Reuters/Ipsos Poll.” Reuters, July 5, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-immigration/immigration-top-issue-for-u-s-voters-economy-a-close-second-reuters-ipsos-poll-idUSKBN1JV31K.

2. Ibid.

3. Davis, Julie. “Trump Orders Mexican Border Wall to be Built and Plans to Block Syrian Refugees.” The New York Times, January 24, 2017. Accessed July 25, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/25/us/politics/refugees-immigrants-wall-trump.html.

4. Vivian, Wang. “In Rebuke to Trump, Cuomo Pardons 18 Immigrants.” The New York Times, December 27, 2017. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/27/nyregion/trump-cuomo-pardons-immigrants.html.

5. Shear, Michael and Helene Cooper. “Trump Bars Refugees and Citizens of 7 Muslim Countries.” The New York Times, January 27, 2017. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/us/politics/trump-syrian-refugees.html.

6. “H.R. 158 – Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.” 114th Congress, Introduced January 6, 2015. Accessed January 23, 2018. https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/158.

7. Benen, Steve. “Defending His Muslim Ban, Trump Remains His Own Worst Enemy.” MSNBC, June 5, 2017. Accessed January 23, 2018. http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/defending-his-muslim-ban-trump-remains-his-own-worst-enemy.

8. Zapotosky, Matt. “Federal Judge Blocks Trump’s Third Travel Ban.” The Washington Post, October 17, 2017. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/federal-judge-blocks-trumps-third-travel-ban/2017/10/17/e73293fc-ae90-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html?utm_term=.91cd2eaa5c3e.

9. Shear, Michael, Julie Davis, Thomas Kaplan and Robert Pear. “Federal Judge in California Halts Splitting of Migrant Families at Border.” The New York Times, June 26, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/26/us/politics/family-separations-congress-states.html.

10. “Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks to the 24th Annual Joint Conference of the Montana Association of Chiefs of Police and the 88th Annual Montana Police Protective Association.” The United States Department of Justice June 7, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/attorney-general-jeff-sessions-delivers-remarks-24th-annual-joint-conference-montana.

11. “The Original List of Sanctuary Cities, USA.” Ohio Jobs and Justice PAC, Last Updated April 2, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2018. http://www.ojjpac.org/sanctuary.asp.

12. “8 U.S. Code § 1373 – Bringing in and Harboring Certain Aliens.” Cornell Law School, Legal Information Institute, n.d. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1324.

13. “8 U.S. Code § 1324 – Bringing in and Harboring Certain Aliens.” Cornell Law School, Legal Information Institute, n.d. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1324.

14. Gonzales, Richard. “Mayor Rahm Emanuel: ‘Chicago Always Will Be a Sanctuary City.” Reuters: The Two-Way, November 14, 2016. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/14/502066703/mayor-rahm-emanuel-chicago-always-will-be-a-sanctuary-city.

15. Jacobs, Julia. “Chicago Sues Trump Administration Over Sanctuary City Plan.” Reuters, August 7, 2017. Accessed July 24. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-sanctuary-idUSKBN1AN200.

16. Wootson Jr., Cleve. “Widespread Panic as Oakland Mayor Warns Sanctuary City of an ICE Sweep.” The Washington Post, February 26, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/02/25/oaklands-mayor-just-warned-the-sanctuary-city-about-a-potential-ice-raid/?utm_term=.307bc37547da.

17. “Justice Department Reviewing ICE Raid Warning by Oakland Mayor, White House Says.” CBS, March 1, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/libby-schaaf-ice-raid-oakland-tip-off-justice-department-investigating/.

18. Ibid.

19. “232 Illegal Aliens Arrested During ICE Operation in Northern California.” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, March 31, 2018. Last Updated March 5, 2018. https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/232-illegal-aliens-arrested-during-ice-operation-northern-california.

20. Cadelago, Christopher and Anita Chabria. “Defying Trump Again, Jerry Brown Pardons Immigrants about to be Deported.” The Sacramento Bee, December 23, 2017. Last Updated December 26, 2017. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article191430714.html.

21. Phillips, Kristine. “Why Gov. Jerry Brown Pardoned 5 Ex-convicts Facing Deportation, Drawing Trump’s Ire.” The Washington Post, March 31, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/03/31/why-gov-jerry-brown-pardoned-five-ex-convicts-facing-deportation-drawing-trumps-ire/?utm_term=.e78eb945d55b.

22. Nir, Sarah. “To Stave Off a Deportation, Cuomo Pardons a 9/11 Volunteer.” The New York Times, June 21, 2017. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/21/nyregion/cuomo-pardon-deportation-carlos-cardona.html.

23. Vivian, Wang. “In Rebuke to Trump, Cuomo Pardons 18 Immigrants.” The New York Times, December 27, 2017. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/27/nyregion/trump-cuomo-pardons-immigrants.html.

24. “Governor Cuomo Grants Clemency to 61 Individuals.” New York State Governor, December 27, 2017. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-grants-clemency-61-individuals.

25. “New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Pardons 7 Facing Deportation for Past Convictions.” NBC New York, July 23, 2018. Last Updated July 23, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Cuomo-Pardons-7-Facing-Deportation-for-Past-Convictions–488892761.html.

26. “Governor Cuomo Grants Pardons to Seven Individuals Facing Deportation.” New York State Governor, July 23, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-grants-pardons-seven-individuals-facing-deportation.

27. Heyboer, Kelly. “‘Undocumented and Afraid’ Immigrants March on ICE Headquarters.” nj.com, March 5. Last updated March 6, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2018/03/daca_protesters_march_on_ice_headquarters_in_newar.html.

28. Valencia, Nick, Ray Sanchez and Jaide Timm-Garcia. “Undocumented Immigrants Come Out of the Shadows.” CNN, n.d. Last Updated March 10, 2017. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2017/03/10/us/undocumented-immigrants-out-of-shadows/.

29. “States Offering Driver’s Licenses to Immigrants.” National Conference of State Legislatures, November 30, 2016. Accessed July 24, 2018. http://www.ncsl.org/research/immigration/states-offering-driver-s-licenses-to-immigrants.aspx.

30. Arco, Matt. “Phil Murphy Signs Bill to Let Unauthorized Immigrants Get College Financial Aid.” nj.com, May 9, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2018/05/immigration_status_will_no_longer_preclude_college.html?__vfz=rtw_top_pages%3D1502400015846.

31. Haltiwanger, John. “Immigrants are Getting the Right to Vote in Cities Across America.” Newsweek, September 13, 2017. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.newsweek.com/immigrants-are-getting-right-vote-cities-across-america-664467.

32. “Assembly Passes Bill to Make California First State to Cover Undocumented Immigrants Under Medicaid.” California Healthline, May 31, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://californiahealthline.org/morning-breakout/assembly-passes-bill-to-make-california-first-state-to-cover-undocumented-immigrants-under-medicaid/.

33. Luna, Taryn. “Undocumented Immigrants Could Serve on California Boards Under New Bill.” The Sacramento Bee, April 30, 2018. Last Updated May 1, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.sacbee.com/latest-news/article210184089.html.

34. Kugle, Andrew. “Cotton: Democrats Want ‘Open Borders,’ Give Illegal Immigrants a ‘Get-Out-of-Jail-Free’ Card.” The Washington Free Beacon, June 19, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://freebeacon.com/national-security/cotton-democrats-want-open-borders/.