The video is hard to watch.
On Martin Luther King Day, Jorge Garcia, a 39-year-old married father of two teenagers was deported from Detroit back to Mexico. He had lived here for 30 years, paid his taxes, provided for his family, and was a good citizen in his community.
But he was born at the wrong time and in the wrong place. So the United States took his family away and sent him back to a country he hasn’t known since he was a child.
Garcia was one year too old to qualify for the Obama Era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. He had done everything he could to remain in the country legally, but a paperwork error left him vulnerable. And, under the new immigration enforcement guidelines of the Trump Administration, ICE acted.
Had Garcia been a DACA recipient — aka Dreamer — he would have been protected.
But even those protections are in danger of disappearing.
To clarify who we’re talking about, these are individuals who arrived in the United States as minors under the age of 16. Nearly a third of today’s DACA recipients are under the age of 19, and two-thirds of the recipients are under the age of 25. The majority are women.
The debate surrounding DACA, then, is a debate about whether we deport children and young adults.
As is the case with all political issues, sides have been taken.
Conservatives argue that undocumented immigrants, including DACA recipients, are breaking the law and need to suffer the consequences. Theirs is the law-and-order opinion. But it is not hard to detect a decidedly racist and ethnocentric tone and vocabulary employed in the rhetoric for this position.
Progressives have declared themselves the guardians of human rights and have vowed to protect DACA recipients like white knights to the rescue. Of course, some have indicated that such a position is taken simply for political gain and not out of any moral conviction. But, for a moment, it looked like they were ready to put their political futures and reputations on the line for the Dreamers. They shut down the government to force a vote on DACA.
Alas, when Chuck Schumer saw that the electoral math was beginning to swing against him and that Democrats were quickly losing favor (some had skillfully begun spinning the shut-down as prioritizing “illegals” over soldiers), he caved. Apparently political expediency trumped the protection of families.
The shutdown lasted a weekend.
And so the can has been kicked down the road and Dreamers still wonder what will happen to them in March.
Christians are beginning to take sides in the debate. Some have stood with the conservatives, others with the progressives.
And some are frustrated by this binary choice. It seems that the Right has become consumed with “Making America Great Again” and that the Left is consumed with a progressive agenda that leaves people of faith out in the cold.
Where does the Christian turn?
I believe that aligning oneself with an American political ideology does little good and, frankly, is unnecessary.
Because Christians have our own politics. We have Kingdom politics, a platform of ideals and positions not cobbled together from the best of Western thought or secular theory but a platform derived from the pages of Scripture.
And when Kingdom politics are applied to the debate about DACA it becomes clear that, as with all political issues, while our convictions may bring us nearer or farther from the stance of an American party, we simply have different priorities than those of the Left and the Right. Our politics address different questions and uphold different values, those values of Christ’s Kingdom.
In the Kingdom, we aim to strengthen and uphold the family.
The family is one of three institutions — alongside the Church and civil government — given as a gift by God to the world. It is a basic common grace (Genesis 1-4, Ephesians 5-6) that Christians are called to protect and nourish.
How is Jorge Garcia’s family better now that he has been deported? Can we say that his family is better off as a single-parent home? Is Jorge?
What about those families that will be torn apart if DACA expires? When, presumably, thousands of families are forced to live in fear because the protection offered them has been taken away, are we better off as a society? As a Kingdom?
Because many of these families are Christian families. The country of origin for most DACA recipients is Mexico. According to the U.S. State department, more than 90% of Mexicans claim some form of Christian faith. Now, we could argue all day about the veracity of their faith, but the reality is that most of the people being deported claim Christianity. They claim to be our brothers and sisters in the faith.
Is the Kingdom better off with the breaking up of Christian families?
In the Kingdom, we protect children.
Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matthew 18:6ff).”
He also said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. (Luke 18:16ff).
The saints of old prioritized the teaching of the Law to their children (Deut 6:7ff) and understood the killing of children to be an abominable crime (Leviticus 20:2ff). Instead, children were to be seen as a prized gift (Psalm 127:3ff) and were even used by Jesus as an example of how we should approach God (Matthew 18:1ff).
While these writers were certainly concerned about the faithfulness of the people of God from generation to generation, Christians have always understood that children are valuable and to be protected. This is why modern-day American Christians have worked to end abortion.
How are we protecting children if we are deporting them to countries they may not even remember? How are we protecting them if we are separating them from their families? How are we protecting them by forcing them out of one home and into another that is filled with uncertainty and a lack of support?
In one sense, it doesn’t matter if the children are being sent to Mexico or to the next state over; the sudden removal of a child from their home does great emotional, psychological, and even physical damage to her. We know this to be true because we recognize the effect of divorce on a family. So how could we not do everything in our power to ensure that these children are protected and provided for?
Now, I am not an immigration expert. I do no have an answer to the complex questions surrounding American immigration policies. I don’t know which laws are best or how the American immigration system can be repaired. And I certainly don’t know how each party can best position itself for the coming elections. Let the Republicans and Democrats fight about legalities and voting blocs.That’s not our concern.
Our concern as Christians is defined by Kingdom politics. Any immigration policy that will result in the destruction of families and the harming of children cannot be acceptable to citizens of Christ’s Kingdom.
And so let us act. Let us call Representatives and Senators. Let us ask church leaders to stand for the protection of Dreamers. Let us not succumb to the allure of right or left, conservative or progressive, Republican or Democrat.
Instead, let us stay true to our King and His Kingdom and speak out for the vulnerable Dreamers among us.