Immigration & The Death of DAPA


by Bruce Strom

Earlier today the United States Supreme Court ended significant political debate with nine words – “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.”  This was the long-awaited opinion in United States vs. Texas.  Nine words.  Those words effectively ended President Obama’s Executive Action deferring deportation for parents of U.S. Citizens (commonly referred to as DAPA) and an expansion of the deferred action for childhood arrivals referred to as DACA+.

Technically the lack of an opinion simply means the 5th Circuit has effectively stopped implementation of the law while the case is decided on its merits in a Texas courtroom.  In theory another Circuit could rule differently and allow implementation of the law creating judicial chaos and requiring a later resolution of the competing circuits before a fully constituted U.S. Supreme Court.  But long before that could grind through the court system, President Obama would be out of office.  Any hope that the President had for immigration action is dead.  I think it unlikely that proponents will take a protracted court approach over focusing on the next President and congressional or executive action taken by different means.

I know many conservatives and evangelicals will celebrate this ruling both as a check on executive action and as a green light to deport more illegal aliens.  The ruling does neither, but it will fuel immigration rhetoric and I urge evangelicals to stand apart from such vitriolic discourse.

Last Saturday I was volunteering at my church’s legal clinic.  I met a woman, I’ll call her Sandy, who was trying to escape from an abusive husband.  She hid behind locked doors praying he would not break the door down to harm her and her young son.  She was afraid to take any action because she is here illegally.  She has been in the country for nearly twenty years and doesn’t even have a parking ticket – I’ve violated more laws than she has.  Sandy is active in her church, works, and pays taxes.  Sadly she uses a false social security number for which she will never receive benefits but the government will take those funds.  Her husband is also illegal so there is no protection for her under VAWA or a criminal case to apply for a U-Visa.

Sandy lives in fear of her husband and in fear of her community.  On Saturday I told her to watch the news this week.  I told her there might be hope that she could apply for deferred action which would provide no visa or path to citizenship but would put her at the back of the deportation line and allow her to obtain a valid work-only social security number.  Now she has no hope and I can offer her none.   Many have no sympathy for Sandy – make her son an orphan and send her back.  Send all 11 million Mexicans back.  Never mind the impossible man power and expense that would take to accomplish.  Never mind the millions of additional dollars spent building a giant wall.  We can’t allow people to flaunt the law – especially not “those” people who speak a different language, have darker skin, carry diseases and have criminal tendencies.  They are “aliens” and don’t belong.

What happened to welcoming the stranger?  What happened to loving our neighbor?  What happened to us?  I can appreciate different political opinions over how to fix our broken immigration system.  As a lawyer with more than 26 years of experience, I understand the complexities better than most.  But I can’t appreciate the uninformed rhetoric I hear which degrades people made in the image of God.   Rhetoric that is actually subsuming a major political party.  I am especially grieved by evangelicals engaged in this rhetoric.  That is not a reflection of Christ and His Kingdom.  If we agree that we are all aliens on this earth and that our home is not America, but Heaven, then we should be advancing that Kingdom.  That kingdom is comprised of every tribe and every tongue (Rev. 5:9-10).

Jesus healed a Samaritan (Lk. 17:16) and he used a Samaritan as an example of loving and serving others (Lk 10:33).  Jesus took time to meet with a Samaritan woman – maybe her name was Sandy (Jn. 4). The Samaritan was from a different region, a different race, and was despised by the Jews.  But Jesus never looked at the outside.  He always looked at the heart.  He still does.  As the discussions flow from the Supreme Court opinion this week, what will he see?

Will you take the opportunity to serve Sandy – to see her as a neighbor – or will you objectify her and in doing so walk right past her like the priest or the Levite?  I hope we will be good Samaritans reflecting the Great Samaritan as we hear his voice and

Go and Do Likewise.