Amidst the Trump administration’s decision to separate immigrant families seeking asylum, a debate has arisen surrounding a certain comment made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. According to Sessions, there is justification for this decision in the Bible, specifically in Romans 13. Luckily, there have been many outspoken critics of this interpretation, who claim that the Bible could never justify such hardships on families. Still though, my main question is, who cares?
A core tenant of the United States is the separation of Church and State. Why is there suddenly a political discussion over whether or not a Bible passage can be interpreted to justify a government decision? It can’t. No matter which way it is interpreted, religion cannot justify law. The fact that people are arguing over whether or not Sessions is approaching the passage correctly misses a central problem with this policy. If the only justification offered for why we should be separating families is in a specific religious text, it should not be the policy of a secular White House or its Attorney General.
While it would be naïve to assume religion plays no part in our political system, the importance is discerning and enforcing where it stops. Obviously, many politicians use their religious views when choosing what to vote on and what laws they support. At a very basic sense, there is nothing wrong with individuals using religion as a starting point for their personal beliefs, even if they are a representative. The problem is when these personal beliefs cannot be made universal. For example, there is nothing wrong with a Christian senator saying he supports banning murder because it’s against his religion, as long as he can also sell it as a universal law (since almost everyone agrees with banning murder for various reasons, this works). But when a Christian cites a personal belief that cannot be extrapolated, like Sessions claiming Romans 13 should have sway over a country with no state religion, it must be shut down immediately.
While this issue raises serious concerns about the political reasoning coming from the White House, the more immediate problem is the policy itself. Republicans are stricter on immigration, and I can accept this. There is a certain spectrum where all views are at least comprehensible, even if I don’t agree with them. If Trump was simply prosecuting asylum-seeking families, I could understand, if strongly disagree with, his decision. However, choosing to separate families as part of the legal proceedings as a means of deterring future immigrants crosses a line into unforgivable territory. There is no possible argument to support it. It extends far beyond the spectrum of acceptability and shows a twisted and malicious sense of what President Trump thinks it means to be American.
Another misconception that must be dispelled in order to fully grasp this atrocity is the possibility that this is anyone’s fault except for Donald Trump and his supporters. While President Trump may claim it is somehow “the Democrats’ fault,” that is nothing short of a blatant lie. This administration has made a deliberate choice to separate families as a part of anti-immigration tactics, as well as a way to push legislation they want. This has never happened before. Past presidents have never thought to use children as a bargaining chip in trying to craft immigration legislation. Though, what else could be expected from a president who claims that foreigners seeking asylum from dangerous conditions are somehow “some of the worst criminals on earth?"
A healthy debate on immigration is an important part of the foundation of democracy. Yet in the midst of this discussion, we have destroyed families, scared children, and caged immigrants like animals. These are direct violations of the values this very democracy claims to uphold. This sort of treatment towards anyone undermines any pride or accomplishments that the United States holds. While such scare tactics continue to be utilized by our government, all Americans should feel responsible and ashamed. I know I do.
Update: While the passing of an executive order has changed the situation since this article was written, the author stands by the argument made in the article and feels it is necessary to continue a national conversation about how this inhumane policy was able to exist in the first place.