President Obama reportedly plans to offer an effective amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants through executive orders and without congressional authorization in a plan he will announce today and detail on Friday.
How will church officials who backed legislative legalization respond? How should Christians react to what critics call unconstitutional and Caesarian? The Evangelical Immigration Table waged a well-funded but unsuccessful lobby campaign to persuade Congress to back mass legalization. How can Christians, particularly Evangelicals, advocate for an effective national consensus on immigration policy?
Church elites and other religious activists who back mass legalization as a Gospel imperative will be tempted to support executive amnesty. Some already have. Others should be more prudent.
Even if mass legalization were a just cause, Christian teaching always warns of unintended consequences. What if executive amnesty poisons American political life and precludes future lawful legislation on immigration? What if subsequent congressional action defunds or effectively neutralizes executive amnesty? What if the courts after prolonged litigation ultimately rule against executive amnesty? What if illegal immigrants, rather than gaining security from executive amnesty, are instead left in further limbo and become hapless pawns in national political and ultimately judicial conflict?
Shouldn’t Christian — especially church — voices argue for lawful change and, where possible, some level of sustainable national consensus rather than political brinkmanship?
Mass legalization failed in the last Congress because opponents did not trust promises of securing the border. Executive amnesty certainly will increase distrust exponentially.
Church elites and activists focused on immigration might be more helpful if they focused on creating consensus and trust, starting with their own constituencies. Such a consensus requires prioritizing security and rule of law, without which any eventual lawful legalization process becomes politically impossible.
Church bodies in the U.S. addressing immigration would do well to avoid legislative specifics and instead offer broad principles that affirm rule of law, social order, security, human dignity, and economic opportunity for all Americans.