Illegal Families

American Evangelicals place a great deal of emphasis on protecting the nuclear family. One would think Evangelicals would also concern themselves with keeping families together in America, where one of the spouses is not here legally. While not all Evangelicals make this connection, many  do.

I appreciate the Evangelical Immigration Table’s emphasis on “protecting the unity of the immediate family” and its call for a bi-partisan solution to the situation of immigration reform that “establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.”

Some will argue that failure to deport an undocumented individual who is married to an American or a legal resident is condoning disobedience. Actually, I am condoning and promoting compassion. I cannot do anything about the choices such a couple made to this point, but I can advocate for the government to make the right choice and help them stay together and raise their family in a nurturing environment where both parents are present legally.

This is no ivory tower issue that I engage as a seminary professor. A Hispanic pastor came to my office and presented to me the challenge he faces as an Evangelical to support an American father who is raising his baby alone now that his wife has been deported. The pastor told me how during a pastoral visit the father shared his angst about trying to work and care for the crying baby in his arms.

We cannot wash our hands of this situation or those countless other stories similar to it. Either we need to help raise the child or we are condoning separating families. People can say all they want about such couples needing to suffer the consequences of their past acts of disobedience alone. Where do they get the justification for that claim biblically? It is so calloused. I am thankful Jesus didn’t operate that way. He suffered the consequences of our actions for us and in our place, dying for our sins. Christians are called to a radical obedience of solidarity with offenders of the law no matter the consequences. Otherwise, from God’s vantage point, we’re not legally Christian.

About Paul Louis Metzger

Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including "Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths" and "Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church." These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.

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  • Theodore Seeber

    I’m Catholic, and this was the most challenging doctrine I’ve ever faced in my lifetime. My gut reaction was “Keep the family together, deport the US Citizen spouse for marrying an illegal”, which of course, is completely outside of anything resembling justice for anybody but those who immigrate here legally.

    After praying about it and coming in closer to Church teaching on the subject- I believe the true answer lies in speeding up the immigration and naturalization process to the point that nobody has to come here illegally in the first place.

  • katherine appello

    I understand the conflict, as I myself have really struggled and as a minister with this issue, though my work has been mainly online. As much as I empathize with the family, if we do not make it clear that illegal is not acceptable we will never get our house in order. We have to figure out how to get our house in order and make sure no one crosses the borders illegally and those here up that came in up till a certain date have a path to citizenship that is strict and must be adhered to or they have to go back. Laws can’t be allowed to be broken out social justice sense over and over again.