Restitution-based immigration reform


MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: immigration reform.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in the fight over DACA—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. President Obama enacted the program via executive order in 2012. President Trump rescinded it five years later in 2017. 

And that was the last major effort to change the nation’s immigration policies.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: But Christians haven’t forgotten about the plight of immigrants and their families. The Evangelical Immigration Table is a broad coalition of evangelical organizations and leaders. Its goal is to advocate for immigration reform consistent with Biblical values. 

Last week it issued an open statement urging lawmakers to resume the debate over reform and consider adopting what’s called ‘restitution-based changes.’

Danny Akin is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He signed the statement and joins us now to talk about it.

Good morning!

DANNY AKIN, GUEST: How are you doing, Mary?

REICHARD: Thanks for coming on the program. Well, let’s start with the proposal that you all are advocating. What is restitution-based reform?

AKIN: Well, it’s trying to approach the issue of our immigration problem in a way that is grounded in biblical principles—all those that are affirming it, evangelical Christians. Secondly, we want to honor both the rule of law and we’re definitely advocates of safe and secure borders. At the same time, we want to have—if at all possible—a pathway to citizenship that is reasonable but also fair and doable. And I think that what we’ve laid out, especially in the five principles that flow out of our objective, that it allows for this. And so you put all that together and I do think that it’s very frustrating to see the roadblock—the stalemate is actually a better word—between the Democrats and Republicans. Seems to me that what we’re proposing could be attractive across the aisle to both parties and I wish they would at least give it a good long and hard look.

REICHARD: I want to get to brass tacks exactly what you mean by restitution-based reform. That’s not immediately apparent what it means.

AKIN: Well, in the statement that we issued, we’re talking about the fact that we recognize, one, that what they did was a violation of the law that they admit to. And then secondly, there are imposed fines and penalties that would be paid by immigrants but that would be done, one, in a reasonable period of time. We’re talking about somewhere up to maybe seven years. And, secondly, it would be what they could reasonably achieve and be able to do. And, again, we’re looking at people that have not committed violent crimes. We’re talking about people that are working, they’re contributing to our tax-base. And so, again, as a Christian, I believe in upholding the law and I believe in honoring the government and at the same time, I want to operate with a heart of compassion and grace. And so I’m not in favor of open borders at all, but I’m not a hardliner either. I don’t see immigration as a great threat to our nation especially if it’s done reasonably and legally, that continues to also advocate for safe and secure borders. And I want all of that. And I’m not convinced it can’t be done.

REICHARD: Immigration seems like it’s always in the headlines, but there’s no real immigration plan on the table right now in Congress. Why issue this statement now?

AKIN: Well, we have an election year coming up and so no doubt things are going to be hot and heavy in this regard over the next 12 months. To get this out on the table now then allows persons, whether it be as representatives, senators, or the president, to position themselves on what they would like to see us do in the future. And, again, Mary, I’m equally frustrated with Democrats and Republicans over this. I was talking with a good friend, Al Mohler, a couple of weeks ago and this is a political football that gets kicked back and forth. And I would just argue, again, yeah, we ultimately have to leave the fine details to our government officials, but again, if you can follow or you buy into the guidelines and the principles that we put forth, I think this does provide a way for us to move the ball.

REICHARD: Do you think evangelicals are more or less united on immigration matters than they were a few years ago?

AKIN: I know this, I’m a member of the Southern Baptist Convention and we have put forth a couple of resolutions in the last five to seven years that would be thoroughly consistent with the principles set forth by the Evangelical Round Table. So I think when it comes to our heart, most evangelicals want to see something like this particular idea pushed forward and set forth. There are some, I realize, that are a little harder but I think, to be honest with you, most evangelicals would like to see something done here and not see this stalemate continue.

REICHARD: I’m curious about what you hope to achieve with this statement. Do you think a statement like this can really make a difference, given the gridlock over immigration?

AKIN: I am pessimistic but hopeful and as a follower of Jesus Christ, I’m always hopeful. And for me morally, I believe—and biblically—this is just the right thing for us to do and, therefore, I’ll keep beating my head against the concrete wall until hopefully, eventually it begins to crumble and crack and who knows what the Lord might do on the other side.

REICHARD: Danny Akin is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a member of the Evangelical Immigration Table. Thanks so much for joining us today!

AKIN: Thank you, Mary. Honored to do so.


(AP Photo/Christian Chavez) In this July 17, 2019 file photo, three migrants who had managed to evade the Mexican National Guard and cross the Rio Grande onto U.S. territory walk along a border wall set back from the geographical border, in El Paso, Texas, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. 

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