President Biden grants new protections to half a million immigrants

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President Biden grants new protections to half a million immigrants

June 19, 2024 -

President Joe Biden is applauded while speaking during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 18, 2024.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden is applauded while speaking during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 18, 2024.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden is applauded while speaking during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 18, 2024.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

At a ceremony marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals  (DACA) program, President Biden announced an executive action—which is different from an executive order— estimated to shield upwards of half a million immigrants from deportation. Given the proximity to the executive order that essentially closed the border between official ports of entry two weeks ago, many are curious to see what comes next as the president seeks to change both his policies and his image regarding immigration. 

But before we look at that bigger picture, let’s take a minute to discuss what the latest executive action will try to do:

  • The new policy is limited to undocumented immigrants who, prior to Tuesday, were married to legal citizens of the United States, had been in the country for at least ten years, and do not have a criminal record. The White House estimates that roughly 500,000 people would meet those standards, and applications are expected to open later this summer.
  • If approved, they will have three years to apply for permanent U.S. residency and a three-year work permit. 
  • Current U.S. policy typically requires any undocumented person who marries an American citizen to leave the country before applying for legal residency—also known as a green card. Consequently, many people choose to remain in the country illegally rather than leave their families to go through the proper channels to become legal. 
  • In addition to changing the process of gaining a green card for some spouses of U.S. citizens, the executive action also simplifies the visa process for graduates of American colleges to stay in the country after earning their degree if they have received an offer of employment from a U.S. based company. 

Overall, the president’s action appears to benefit people most Americans are in favor of helping and who have already taken steps to demonstrate their value and commitment to the country. But if that’s the case, why has there been so much hesitation and doubt at its announcement?

Who does it help?

The unfortunate truth is that given the politically charged state in which many people seem to live on a daily basis—one that is only heightened by the coming election—it is understandably difficult to take any government action at face value. And even when there is genuine good being done, it’s easy to look for ulterior motives that make you wonder what the true purpose is. 

With Tuesday’s executive action, for example, the public perception of helping half a million people become legal, contributing members of the country is hurt by the fact that more than 100,000 voters live in “mixed status” households in each of Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia—important swing states this fall. While green card holders cannot vote in federal elections, their spouses, who, in these circumstances, are U.S. citizens, can. 

Moreover, after his previous executive order angered many of his supporters on the left, the White House was quick to reassure them that “In the weeks ahead—and I mean in the weeks ahead—I will speak to how we can make our immigration system more fair and more just.”

A good argument can be made that this policy does just that. 

At the same time, Republican Whip John Thune is not wrong when he warns that decisions like these can create more “pull factors” that increase the “incentive for people to come here illegally.” 

So, how should we view the president’s executive action, and what can it teach us about a biblical approach to immigration? 

When perception becomes reality

Dr. Mark Turman and I discussed this issue in depth on this week’s Denison Forum podcast, but for today, there are two principles that can help us honor God with how we approach this topic. 

To start, think back to your initial reaction when you read the title of today’s article. How accurately did your expectations reflect the reality of what the executive action aims to accomplish? 

Unfortunately, most people—both inside and outside of the country—will only know what the headlines suggest. In such circumstances, perception can quickly become reality when enough people believe it. 

On a larger scale, that basic truth is important to remember when we think about our witness and the impact our statements, posts, and responses on topics like illegal immigration and a host of others can have on the way people see Christianity. 

As pastor Greg Laurie once quipped, “You’re the only Bible some people are ever going to read. They’re going to literally form an opinion about God based on what they think of you.”

If that were the case for you today, how closely would their perception reflect the reality of who God truly is?

Seek truth over comfort

Second, regarding Biden’s executive action, the new policy is likely to bless hundreds of thousands of families while also making the situation at the border even more difficult to manage. Both can be true, and we should not allow either impact to diminish the importance of the other. 

If we’re going to claim to represent the God who is truth (John 14:6), then we must discipline ourselves to reject the simple understanding when it necessitates ignoring the reality of a situation. And that responsibility becomes even more daunting when the truth challenges our preconceived notions of what we would like to believe. 

If someone on the other side of the political aisle does something that honors God and helps those he loves, then celebrate that fact. Conversely, if someone on your side messes up and acts in a way that goes against the Lord’s will, don’t ignore it or accept it as a necessary evil. 

As fallen, flawed human beings who still retain the image of God as a core element of who he created us to be, most of the time, some element of our thoughts and actions will reflect both sides of that identity. However, we’ll never become the ambassadors for Christ that we are called to be if we allow anyone but God to determine how we discern right from wrong.

So, as you think about President Biden’s executive action—or any other topic that comes up in conversation or on social media—prioritize what is true over what is simple and remember that making that distinction is much easier when you include God in the process.

Let’s start today.

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