A Christian Response to Indefinite Detention

A Christian Response to Indefinite Detention February 28, 2018

I’m not really into decontextualized quotemining of the Old Testament to find out what Christians are supposed to believe, but I’ve met many Christians who are. For example they like to quote Leviticus 18:22: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

To them, I would like to submit two verses from that same lovely and lilting King James translation of that same book of Leviticus in the very same Bible, which are extremely relevant today.

Leviticus 19: 33-34 states, “And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 24:22 also states, “Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.”

If you’re going to be a Bible thumper, thump the Bible for your brothers and sisters in bondage right now. Because today, the Supreme Court ruled that there shall be two manners of law for the strangers and for those of our own country. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that if a stranger sojourn with us in our land, we should vex him and treat him as one who wasn’t born here.

Specifically, the Supreme Court has ruled that immigrants in prison awaiting the results of deportation hearings do not have a right to a bond hearing within six months. This ruling opens the door to their being held indefinitely. United States citizens cannot be held indefinitely, but others living here can. This ruling doesn’t just apply to illegal aliens, which would be bad enough, but to people who are here perfectly legally; to green card holders and asylum seekers, to permanent legal residents.

The main plaintiff in this case was a legal resident of the United States, a dental assistant who was born in Mexico but has been here since he was a baby. He was convicted of two nonviolent misdemeanors and was detained in prison for three years without a hearing. If an American citizen committed such crimes he’d have a right to a speedy trial and would have been released as soon as he did his time, not randomly held for three years, but the Supreme Court just ruled that the alien living among us can be imprisoned for as long as we wish. That’s two separate laws, one for us and one for the alien living among us, and a direct violation of Leviticus.

Now, for those of us who don’t like to quotemine the Old Testament in that way, I give you the words of Christ in the Gospel. But I’m still using the KJV translation because it is so pretty.

Matthew 7:12 says, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you: do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is the Law and the Prophets. Would you be angry if someone held you in prison for three years without a trial or a hearing because of a nonviolent misdemeanor you’d already been punished for? Then get angry, because it’s happening to others, and the Supreme Court just said that was legal. There are two sets of laws now: there’s a not always unproblematic but comparatively straightforward one for those of us who were born in America, and then there’s the other one for the other people who live here, whether legally or not. We’re not allowed to be held indefinitely pending a hearing and they are.

This is a grave injustice, and all Christians need to fight to protect the immigrants living among us in any way we can.



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