WASHINGTON — Pushing back at faith leaders’ criticism of the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border as immoral, Attorney General Jeff Sessions asserted today that the Bible backs up the zero-tolerance enforcement and deterrence policy.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops argued that pulling children from parents seeking asylum is a pro-life issue.
“Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma,” said USCCB president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston. “Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together.”
“While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety,” he added. “Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”
Evangelist Franklin Graham, a supporter of Trump, told the Christian Broadcasting Network on Tuesday that the policy is “disgraceful, and it’s terrible to see families ripped apart and I don’t support that one bit.”
During a speech in Fort Wayne, Ind., Sessions shot back to faith leaders that “many of the criticisms raised in recent days are not fair or logical and some are contrary to law.”
“First, illegal entry into the United States is a crime — as it should be. Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Sessions said. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.”
“I have given the idea of immigration much thought and have considered the arguments of our church leaders. I do not believe scripture or church history or reason condemns a secular nation state for having reasonable immigration laws. If we have them, then they should be enforced. A mere desire to benefit from entry to the nation does not justify illegal entry. And, there are of course adverse consequences to illegal actions,” he added. “…My request to these religious leaders who have criticized the carrying out of our laws to also speak up strongly to urge anyone who would come here to apply lawfully, to wait their turn, and not violate the law.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at the daily briefing that she wasn’t fully aware of Sessions’ comments, but “I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law — that is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.”
Asked if it was a moral policy to separate children and parents, Sanders’ replied, “It’s a moral policy to follow and enforce the law.”
Brian Karem, the White House correspondent for Playboy, pressed Sanders on whether she has “any empathy for what these people are going through.”
“It’s a serious question. These people have nothing, they come to the border with nothing, and — they throw children in cages. You’re a parent, you’re a parent of young children. Don’t you have any empathy for what they go through?” Karem asked.
Sanders ignored the question and called on another reporter.