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Van Ens: Treat refugees decently

A higher ethic exists above orderly implementing immigration laws. President-elect Joe Biden aligns his moral backbone with Winston Churchill and Jesus in The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). All three leaders advocated adopting a humanitarian ethic that replaces law and order regulations.

Biden vowed on the first day of his presidency to change previous violations of immigrant children’s human rights. He does not view prior immigration laws in static terms — seeing laws as they were and assuming “it’s what it is.”

Using dynamic thinking as his forte, Biden will appoint a task force to find the parents of 545 refugee children who were separated three years ago because of President Donald Trump’s Zero Tolerance Policy. NBC News recently reported the number of lost children at 666.



The Trump Administration kept sloppy records of these young children’s separation from parents deported to their homelands. There is a strong possibility records cannot be reconstructed. Then these immigrant children will never be reunited with their parents, a result of Trump’s cruel policy. Such barbaric rules contradict the Christmas message that respect for the infant Jesus confers dignity on every child, even those defenseless, helpless deprived of political power.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill advocated using a controversial humanitarian ethic to protect Norwegians at the beginning of World War II. He declared the British military should mine with explosives Norway’s port of Narvik to protect Norwegians’ “humanity,” from Hitler’s ruthless domination. Many Norwegian leaders demanded Churchill shut-up and respect Norway’s sovereignty, based on the principle of international law and order.



As war spread into Scandinavia, Norway shipped from Narvik rich iron-ore deposits Hitler used to manufacture armaments. Churchill wanted to cut this supply chain, which would cripple Germany’s arms production as ice jams clogged alternate shipping lanes.

The British Parliament sided with Norway’s “law and order” leaders who reprimanded Churchill to back off. He should respect Norway’s sovereignty, based on International law and order principles.

Churchill disagreed. He appealed to a higher moral code trumping mere legality. Guard Norwegians’ dignity from Nazi slavery, he demanded, even if such policy weakened “law and order” as pillars supporting Norway’s sovereignty. “Small nations must not tie our hands when we are fighting for their rights and freedom. The letter of the law must not in supreme emergency obstruct those who are charged with its protection and enforcement … Humanity, rather than legality, must be our guide,” Churchill asserted (Churchill: Walking with Destiny, Andrew Roberts, Viking, 2018, p. 479).

Today, Trump’s loyalists side with Churchill’s critics in 1939. They run aground any Ship of State that replace entrenched “law and order” with human dignity as the rudder steering political agendas.

Trump’s border policy favors existing immigration laws over refugees’ plight. He won the presidency in 2016 by vowing to crack down on illegal immigration, aimed, for instance, at a Guatemalan mother with her child seeking refuge in the United States. The president speaks of these immigrants as economic misfits who don’t make America great. He ridicules them as drifters and cheats who defy laws by sneaking through the U.S. southern border.

Using “law and order” as a defense is rooted in prior GOP policies. After a landslide 1972 presidential victory defending the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon castigated protesters as draft dodgers who defied U.S. law and order.

Republican commentator Peggy Noonan remembers Time magazine’s Lance Morrow describing the GOP’s “law and order” pro-war agenda in his October 1972 essay, “The Two Americas.”

“In Nixon’s America … there was ‘the sense of system.’ The free enterprise system, the law and order system, even the family unit system. They [the GOP] were protective of it, grateful to it. And the antonym to their idea of system wasn’t utopia; it was chaos. … They wanted evolution, not revolution” (The Wall Street Journal, “The Two Americas have Grown Much Fiercer,” March 30-31, 2019, p. 1-15).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus got on the wrong side of the “law and order” religious establishment. Organized religion had calcified into proscribed rituals. If actions were not stipulated in religion manuals, you could not engage in them, warned “law and order” enthusiasts who despised Jesus.

“You have heard that it was said [in “law and order” religious rule books],” countered Jesus, “but I say to you….” (Matthew 5). He showed compassion toward destitute people, which pre-empted bloodless right rules.

Will the Biden/Churchill/Jesus humanitarian ethic prevail over “law and order” edicts against refugees and their children? Will the plight of desperate people who desire a better life prevail over broken immigration principles that aren’t working?

The Reverend Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt CREATIVE GROWTH Ministries, (www:thelivinghistory.com) which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations that make God’s history come alive.


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