President Trump delivered an address to the nation on Tuesday from the Oval Office. Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners, has issued the following statement in response:
“During Tuesday night’s Oval Office address, we saw racism on display. Racism is always based on lies; it always has been and always will be. Tuesday’s address was more of the same lies Trump has used since he announced his presidential candidacy in 2015. He used his lies last night to try to justify his border wall, the signature issue of his political campaign and administration, which people on both sides of the aisle have said has nothing to do with border security and everything to do with Donald Trump’s central message: You should fear people who aren’t white. The wall would be Donald Trump’s 2,200-mile monument to white supremacy.
Many feared that Trump would designate his falsified national security crisis a ‘national emergency,’ which would justify bypassing the legislature to fund the wall. Such an act would violate the separation of powers in the Constitution, continuing Trump’s dismissal of presidential protocols, practices, and the rule of law, potentially a first step on the road to dictatorship. Thankfully, Trump did not make that declaration — yet. But make no mistake: If President Trump concludes from this episode that he can invent an emergency to justify ignoring the limits the other branches of government, the survival of our democracy is in grave jeopardy.
People of faith need to get ready to respond strongly if and when he takes this step and demand that Congress stand up for our democracy. Let’s be clear: There is no national security emergency at our southern border, but there is a national emergency and it is Donald Trump.
There is, however, a humanitarian crisis that Trump helped create--the one at the border. Migrant children have been stripped from their parents, children and families have been detained in cages, and people seeking asylum have been held in deplorable and dangerous conditions. The real humanitarian crisis at our border involves women and children who have walked thousands of miles and are not given the opportunity to legally plead their cases on a timely basis. The crisis is about children like Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, and Felipe Gómez Alonzo, 8, who died while in custody of Customs and Border Protection after separately making the journey from Guatemala. Remember, no matter what Trump says or implies, applying for asylum is not illegal, and it’s protected under both U.S. and international law. That’s what most of the people currently at the border are waiting to do. In the face of Donald Trump’s lies, we must continue to stand up for the truth.
It’s also true that Trump’s reckless partial government shutdown is causing another humanitarian crisis in America. As is so often the case, the people who will be most negatively impacted by the shutdown are some of society’s most vulnerable, who as Christians, we are commanded in Matthew 25 to treat as we would treat Jesus Christ himself. If this shutdown continues it will make large numbers of people hungry and homeless, as vital nutritional and affordable housing programs are cut.
The U.S. is still the richest country in the history of the world. It is more than equipped to handle a humanitarian crisis like the one facing thousands of families at the border while also protecting its population. I and other faith leaders do not oppose border security — we want humane solutions that work and protect people on both sides of the border. We can improve surveillance and control at border crossings and ports of entry to reduce the illegal drug trade, make smart investments to decrease the backlog of pending asylum cases, and use more humane and effective alternatives to detention. We can also take sensible steps like increasing guest worker visas to better reflect the demand in the U.S. economy.
It is important for Congress to pass the needed funding bills to restore the operation of government agencies, without approving Donald Trump’s 2,200-mile monument to racism. Then, let’s debate what common sense, humane border security should look like on a bipartisan basis without holding the basic functions of a big chunk of our government hostage.
In the midst of a coming constitutional crisis and a humanitarian crisis on the border and throughout the country for the most vulnerable among us, there must a deep response. It must be a cross-sector political, moral, and religious response to the genuine crisis we are locked in.
As part of our role in civil society, the voices of our faith communities across religious traditions must become central, clear, and courageous. Blind and compromising political support for Donald Trump is no longer responsible, nor is silence out of the fear of politically divided congregations. Both support and silence must now be named as antithetical to the gospel and teachings of Jesus Christ and the first principles of all our faith traditions. No more transactional agreements with this president over policy matters that ignore his personal and public amorality. Not only is democracy at stake, but the integrity and credibility of faith is now also at stake, especially for a new generation.
We must prepare to respond, both spiritually and strategically. It’s time to come together to discern the times we are in and commit ourselves to responses that change the narrative and seek the soul of the nation. I believe we should begin to prepare with prayer and fasting to ask God to make us ready for what lies ahead.”