Border Control and Family Separation: A Christian Approach to the Role of Government

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Border Control and Family Separation: A Christian Approach to the Role of Government

(By Ellen Densmore, ’18) Approaching political issues with the love of Christ is easier said than done, especially when it comes to questions as morally challenging as the crisis on our southern border. The story has exploded the internet: President Trump signed an executive order taking a hardline stance on immigration, and families are being separated at the border. Mud is flying: Christians who support Trump are criticized as hypocrites—how can they say they believe in family values when they stand with a President who rips families apart? Like pretty much everything these days, the issue is emotionally-charged and frankly, I’ve started to wonder if anyone really knows what’s going on.

Trump’s intent is to keep families together, but he’s caught in a tangled web of jurisprudence, thanks to the Flores settlement that said children could not be detained more than 20 days. I went straight to the executive order itself, which is an affirmation of the zero-tolerance policy Trump announced in May. It reads in part as follows:

It is the policy of this Administration to rigorously enforce our immigration laws. Under our laws, the only legal way for an alien to enter this country is at a designated port of entry at an appropriate time. When an alien enters or attempts to enter the country anywhere else, that alien has committed at least the crime of improper entry and is subject to a fine or imprisonment under section 1325(a) of title 8, United States Code. This Administration will initiate proceedings to enforce this and other criminal provisions of the INA until and unless Congress directs otherwise. It is also the policy of this Administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources. It is unfortunate that Congress’s failure to act and court orders have put the Administration in the position of separating alien families to effectively enforce the law.

By my reading, Trump’s priority is to uphold the rule of law, with the goal of maintaining American security and liberty. Separating families is not some sadistic pleasure for the President, as the media might have you believe.

The American Republic is rooted in a tradition of liberty under law. Recent decades have seen an erosion of individual rights under the heavy hand of an increasingly arbitrary government. At the same time, there is a seemingly contradictory trend: individuals rejecting moral standards, political authority, and cultural norms, while government fails to enforce fundamental laws designed to fulfill its basic purpose—defending life, liberty, and property.

For generations, the United States has been faced with an impossible challenge not unique to any particular administration: millions of people live in poverty all over the world, and they believe that moving here (or to any Western country for that matter) will make them automatically richer, just by virtue of the opportunity they’ll find in our economic system. In an ideal world, the solution would be to make poor countries rich—which is slowly happening thanks to global economic development, but in the meantime, America still has to address the immigration dilemma.

I won’t defend everything Trump says (*cough* Twitter) or does, but in this case, I think he’s pretty darn close to right. The law must be upheld, and sadly it looks like that means things will get worse before they get better. If we believe in the role of government as our Founders envisioned it, and the supremacy of the Constitution as the law of the land, then we as Christians have to stand firm on this zero-tolerance policy. It’s like this: if existing laws aren’t enforced, any reforms will be useless—and if our government isn’t known for keeping its word, our country will be the laughingstock of the world.

Now, don’t get me wrong—Christians are supposed to love our neighbors, including our neighbors on the other side of our southwest border. We have to understand the distinction between the roles of the Church and the State, because as separate institutions, they have radically different tasks to fulfill in society. The Church is supposed to welcome everyone with open arms, as though welcoming Jesus Himself, and win hearts and minds for the Kingdom. However, a close reading of Scripture also reveals an affirmation of the rule of law: the role of government is to “bear the sword” to bring “punishment on the evildoer” (Romans 13:4), a task which sometimes requires a difficult and unpopular hardline stance like the one our President is currently taking.

What’s the ideal immigration policy? I have no idea. What would Jesus do? I don’t really know—it’s not about placing Jesus in a hypothetical modern situation, it’s about trying to view the world through his eyes. What I do know is that His answer to everything is the perfect combination of truth and grace. Truth by itself is too hard—it would lead to something drastic, like closing the borders entirely, or deportation of all illegal immigrants. Grace by itself is too soft—it would demand complete capitulation and the welcoming of anyone and everyone who wanted to immigrate, leading to chaos and economic turmoil, and making Americans vulnerable to criminals and terrorists. There has to be a balance, the challenge is finding it.

Certainly, not all immigrants are criminals or terrorists; there are plenty of good people around the world who want to come here, respecting our laws and our way of life, and build a new future for themselves. I say, let them come! But they have to be willing to take a legal route to get here, and Americans have to be kind, strong, consistent, and united as we develop and enforce a balanced policy.


  1. Anna Reiser August 8, 2018 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    July 29, 2018

    Colorado Christian University
    Attn: Jeff Hunt and Dr. Donald Sweeting
    8787 W. Alameda Ave
    Lakewood, CO 80226

    Dear Mr. Hunt and Dr. Sweeting:

    I recently attended The Well-Balanced Pianist workshop, which was held on your campus from July 20-25. During my attendance, I came across an essay published on your website by the Centennial Institute authored by Ellen Densmore entitled, “Border Control and Family Separation: What Would Jesus Do?” That title has since been modified to “Border Control and Family Separation: A Christian Approach to the Role of Government.”

    The essay, which was not labeled as an opinion piece, did not cite sources or present factual information. This strikes me as particularly problematic for an academic institution to present opinion as fact without scholarly citing of sources.

    I am particularly concerned with three parts of this essay. One is Ms. Densmore’s stereotype of people living in poverty around the world. She asserts that “millions of people live in poverty all over the world, and they believe that moving here…will make them automatically richer.” This is a baseless, insensitive, judgmental statement.

    Second, Ms. Densmore stereotypes immigrants by saying, “certainly, not all immigrants are criminals or terrorists.” This statement implies that a substantial number of immigrants are in fact criminals and terrorists. This is simply not true. A 2015 National Academy of Sciences study found that “immigrants are in fact much less likely to commit crime than natives, and the presence of large numbers of immigrants seems to lower crime rates.” Ms. Densmore’s language here perpetuates the misconception that immigrants are dangerous.

    The third part, and perhaps the most troubling, is her statement that in addressing immigration policy, “truth by itself is too hard – it would lead to something drastic, like closing the borders entirely, or killing or deportation [sic] all illegal immigrants.” I understand that Ms. Densmore is not suggesting that the United States government murder all illegal immigrants. However, I am astounded that she included this language. The genocide of all illegal immigrants is a horrific image that she generated in her own mind. It is frightening that you would allow this image in your institution’s online presence.

    I protested near your campus during my time in Colorado because I believe Ms. Densmore’s language and ideas generate and perpetuate damaging misinformation about immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. This attitude contributes to mistrust and mistreatment of some of the most vulnerable people among us. I urge you to remove this anti-immigrant hate speech from your website.


    Anna Reiser

  2. Remote Wipe July 10, 2018 at 7:50 am - Reply

    Immigration is a very complex issue and once people cross the border the complexities grow exponentially which is why we need a way to stop illegal crossings altogether!

  3. correct score predictions July 6, 2018 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    Really fantastic And informative post .Thanks for sharing

  4. John June 24, 2018 at 9:49 am - Reply

    Jesus was pretty clear about the importance of going out of way to provide compassion, food, love, shelter, etc. Though “she broke the law” he didn’t stone the adulterous woman, but instead spoke against and prioritized the laws for us — “The most important of these is Love.” Please, use your wit to do His will rather than justify actions He clearly hates.

    • Reba Mick July 3, 2018 at 9:54 am - Reply

      John, I am completely curious as to what you mean by “use your wit to do His will rather than justify actions He clearly hates.” Your comment is vague and mushy.

      Are you suggesting that Christ would want us to have no border? Are you suggesting that every alien who comes across the border with a child should be released into the interior of the US?

      If you think we should keep these families “together” as they await a hearing, where do you think we should have them stay? Should the taxpayers foot the bill for a local hotel while the family awaits a hearing?

      I am also curious if you understand how much money the taxpayers are charged each time we detain an illegal alien until we can give them a hearing? I for one believe, we are beyond compassionate.

      Yes, we feed the detainees. America has millions of homeless who are provided meals for by our Christian soup kitchens and food pantries. Many of these people who come to the churches for food aid are illegal aliens who have made it across the border undetected. In this case however, the food in the detainment facilities is coming from a cafeteria or catering service.

      We are providing food, shelter in an air-conditioned room with a bed, medical care, and some new clothing. Again, I think this is a clear demonstration of moral compassion. You do not? Rest assured, I am not being sarcastic or intending to sound curt, these are just straight forward questions I have for people like you who seem to think America is not demonstration the compassion of Jesus.

      Paying a service to launder the clothing the detainees wear cost money, or did you think we had free laundromats at the detainment facilities? Oh yes, who os buying the soap if we do? For the children and babies who are too young to be toilet trained, I am sure we probably provide diapers. Have you priced diapers? Do you think they traveled through the desert with all of the personal toiletries they need? Shampoo, soap, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products and other personal toiletries, we provide these as well. None of these things just fall out of the sky.

      What about the overhead cost of electricity and other utilities in the holding facility? The cost of entertaining these folks? Do you think they just sit on the concrete in a corner? No, they watch TV and read books, play video games, exercise/work out, etc. Salaries have to be paid to provide “services” to these individuals… Someone has to clean the bathrooms and showers, or did you think the immigrants did this for themselves and for the people who are coming behind them?

      ALL of this costs money, so in your suggestion for “going out of way,” I am challenging you to answer in a much more comprehensive way.

      Now I don’t know about you, but I for one am taxed so much, it makes me wince and cry. I do NOT like having to pay taxes to support these border crossers. Of course, I realize there is no other moral option. I expect to be taxed and am perfectly willing to pay taxes to live in America. However, I would much rather see the money we spend on detainment facilities and support salaries spent on making our highways and byways in America more beautiful. I would rather see every highway median filled with wildflowers and beautiful native trees that are watered and cared for. Just as one example… This business at the southern border is costing every American taxpayer.

      Again, how much are you willing to pay from your weekly salary to support the mission of being compassionate to the people who aim to circumvent the rules? I am anxiously awaiting your answer. ~Reba

      • Jeff July 10, 2018 at 10:56 pm - Reply

        Thanks for the post and challenging questions. I think both Ms Densmore and Mick are asking thoughtful questions and looking at various sides of the issue. It does no good to throw out some Biblical pat answer as John did without backing up the statement and providing more insight.

        There is a SIGNIFICANT difference between legal and illegal immigration unfortunately that conversation is almost always ignored by the media and the left; instead they defend MS-13. Bush and Obama totally ignored the illegal immigration threat to this nation. As noted by Mick, we will compassionately make this great nation bankrupt if someone doesn’t take action to stop the proverbial bleeding. Trump’s order is trying to do something since congress and the previous two administrations have failed. Congress needs to quit pandering for votes and develop the intestinal fortitude to create policy that prevents and enforces illegal immigration while also developing a system that allows legitimate people and families to come to this great nation. .

        As for Mr Martin and Fogel it doesn’t really matter whether these ladies comments are CCU or Centennial “endorsed.” The conversation needs to occur.

  5. John Martin June 23, 2018 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    I too am curious as to whether this reflects the views of CCU.

  6. Daniel Fogel June 23, 2018 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Is this editorial by a former grad student representative of the views of the Centennial Institute and thus endorsed by the Colorado Christian University or is this an open Forum where all posts are approved as long as they do not break some sort of code of conduct?

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