One of President Donald Trump’s top evangelical advisers is arguing that God and government shouldn’t mix ― at least when it comes to immigration.
Robert Jeffress is a Southern Baptist pastor and leader of the megachurch First Baptist Dallas. On Wednesday, he appeared on “Fox & Friends” to discuss how evangelical Christians should approach the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era effort that temporarily grants deportation protection to some 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
While Christian compassion is important, it’s not the only factor at play here, according to Jeffress.
“The Bible also says that God is the one who established nations and its borders,” Jeffress said in a conversation with host Ainsley Earhardt. “God is not necessarily an open borders guy, as a lot of people would think that he is.”
After Trump decided earlier this month to end DACA, he tasked Congress with figuring out a way to help all those young immigrants, also known as Dreamers. On Thursday, the president may (or may not) have reached an agreement with Democrats that would protect Dreamers in exchange for more border security. Republicans in Congress downplayed the significance of Trump’s talks with Democrats.
Meanwhile, some of America’s top evangelical organizations ― including the National Association of Evangelicals, World Relief and the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities ― are trying to bolster support for the Dreamers. More than 3,000 evangelical leaders and pastors signed a letter urging the president to work with Congress to protect DACA participants.
The letter, which was organized by the advocacy group Evangelical Immigration Table, highlights the signers’ belief that immigrants are “made in the image of God” and deserve to be treated with dignity.
“Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we find God commanding his people to treat foreigners with special hospitality,” the letter reads. “From Abraham to Paul, many biblical heroes were themselves immigrants, including even Jesus, whose parents brought Him to Egypt to escape persecution early in his life. As Americans, we are proud that our country has affirmed this biblical principle of valuing and protecting immigrants while also protecting national security.”
Jeffress, on the other hand, is convinced those Christians aren’t interpreting the Bible correctly.
“The Bible says God has ordained government to protect its citizens,” Jeffress said on “Fox & Friends.” “So when you are talking about a biblical solution to immigration, yes, we need to talk about compassion, but we need to balance that with government’s real responsibility to protect its citizens.”
He also pointed a finger at Pope Francis, who earlier this week said it’s not pro-life to threaten family unity by ending DACA.
“I think these leaders and the pope are sincere, but they’re sincerely confused about the difference between the church and government,” Jeffress continued. “I think we need to keep those roles distinct.”
Jeffress was part of Trump’s evangelical advisory board during the 2016 campaign and has remained a strong defender of the president’s America-first policies ever since. He has argued that God gave Trump the authority to “take out” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un if it means protecting Americans.
And in response to Trump’s attempts to restrict refugees from entering the United States, Jeffress told HuffPost in January, “While Scripture commands individual Christians and churches to show mercy to those in need, the Bible never calls on government to act as a Good Samaritan.”