Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the Trump administration’s family separation policy for asylum seekers, citing a controversial passage from the Bible that has rarely been cited since the Civil War because it was used by Southerners to defend the ‘slavery.
That’s what Sessions said during a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Indiana on Thursday, according to NBC News:
People who violate the law of our nation are liable to prosecution. I would quote you the apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of government because God has commanded them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and the loyal.
The historical background has spread on Twitter. Yoni Appelbaum, historian and editor at Atlantic, showed that the passage was quoted at key moments in the American debate on slavery:
2. Whatever one thinks of the exegetical merits of this argument, it is somewhat surprising in a way: Romans 13 was widely cited in political debates of the 1840s and 1850s, but rarely thereafter. (Via https://t.co/zs4wZX13G7) pic.twitter.com/KLCQLIGSHt
– Yoni Appelbaum (@YAppelbaum) June 14, 2018
The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer and Keith McMillan spoke with experts for an article published Friday morning and concluded that Sessions’ decision to quote Romans 13 is unusual, given the historical use of the passage.
“It’s the same argument that southern slave owners and southern lifestyle advocates have made,” John Fea, professor of American history at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, told The Post.
Abolitionists argued that slavery was unreasonably cruel and, in particular, highlighted the separation of families as a violation of religious principles, Appelbaum said. Defenders of slavery said the duty to obey the law was part of the Bible and specifically cited Romans 13. Abolitionists ultimately won the slavery argument.
Fea told the Post that after the Civil War there weren’t as many references to Romans 13 because the passage’s message on submission to authority is seen as un-American. “Whenever Romans 13 was used in the 18th and 19th centuries – and Sessions seem to do the same, so in that sense there is some continuity – it’s a way of manipulating the scriptures to justify your own political agenda. “said Fea.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the same ‘the Bible says follow the law’ argument on Thursday
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was questioned on Thursday about Sessions’ invocation of the Bible to defend the administration’s family separation policy. She said she was not “aware” of the attorney general’s specific comments, but sided with her on the biblical part.
“I can say it is very biblical to apply the law,” Sanders said. “This is actually repeated a number of times in the Bible. ”
When asked by CNN’s Jim Acosta if she thought the practice was moral, Sanders replied, “It is moral policy to follow and apply the law.
President Donald Trump in a surprise appearance on Fox and his friends Friday also defended politics, but he didn’t mention the Bible. “It’s the law,” he said.
Family separation is not the law
The Trump administration recently implemented a policy of separating children from their parents as they attempt to enter the United States seeking asylum at the United States border. They typically divide families by charging parents with illegal entry into the United States and sending them into criminal detention and treating their children as if they were “unaccompanied foreign children” who had attempted to enter the states on their own. -United.
The politics sent shockwaves across the country, sparking outrage from immigration advocates, human rights groups and citizens across the political spectrum. Multiple reports of particularly aggressive or inhuman treatment fueled the fire, including a Honduran man who committed suicide less than a day after being separated from his wife and 3-year-old child by border patrol officers , and a Honduran woman who says officials took her daughter while she was breastfeeding her in a detention center.
The White House maintains that what it is doing is exactly what the legal code says. “We are a country of public order, and we enforce the law and protect our borders,” Sanders said.
Except that’s not the case. As Dara Lind de Vox points out, there is no law requiring the separation of immigrant families:
The decision to charge anyone crossing the border of illegal entry – and the decision to indict asylum seekers in criminal court rather than wait and see if they are entitled to asylum – are two decisions taken by the Trump administration.
Other administration officials are backing Trump by highlighting laws that provide additional protections for families, unaccompanied children and asylum seekers. The administration has asked Congress to change these laws since taking office and criticized them for preventing Trump from securing the border as he wanted. (These are not “democratic laws” either; the Unaccompanied Children Act was passed overwhelmingly in 2008 and signed by George W. Bush, while the restriction on family detention is the result of ‘federal litigation.)
In this context, the law does not oblige Trump to separate families; it prevents Trump from doing what he might really like to do, which is just send the families back or keep them together in custody, and so he had to resort to Plan B.