President Obama is playing politics with immigration and faith.
From left, Steve Copley, Anthony Taylor and Minerva Carcano talk with Robert Parham, back to the camera, at a screening of "Gospel Without Borders" during the Democratic National Convention. (Photo: EthicsDaily.com)
Some of the reading public learned last week that the Obama administration doesn't want federal health care insurance coverage provided to the young undocumented immigrants who he declared in June with much fanfare could stay in the country without fear of deportation.
He wants them to stay. He apparently doesn't care for them to stay healthy.
The next day, Obama launched the People of Faith for Obama website, which declares that he is "a committed Christian who knows that faith and values are more than a personal anchor – they are also a powerful force for the common good."
The site quotes Obama's belief that "we are our brother's keeper." It wraps faith around his political agenda.
The site was launched some two weeks after Democrats booed the addition of the word "God" into the party platform after the word "God" had been inexplicably removed from the platform.
In the midst of that debacle and the following days, Democrats declared rightly that real faith was disclosed in deeds, not words only.
Indeed, the Bible teaches that faith without works is dead.
One wonders if Obama and the Democrats have a dead faith.
They have the words, lots of them declaring that they are people of faith.
Based on the White House's low-key decision a month ago on health care for young undocumented immigrants, one wonders where the works are.
One can't claim to be the party of real faith and then be unfaithful to the moral teachings of what it means to welcome the stranger into our society.
As a reminder, Obama issued an executive order on June 15 that an estimated 800,000 undocumented immigrants would be able to stay temporarily in the United States without fear of deportation.
"They are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper," said Obama in the White House's Rose Garden.
He said his decision would make the situation "more just" for those who had entered the country before the age of 16, had lived in the United States for five years, were in school, had graduated or had served in the military, and had no criminal record.
Significant media attention swirled around this decision. The immigrant community was ecstatic. Many Americans, especially social justice Christians, applauded it.
The New York Times broke a story on Sept. 17 that the White House quietly announced a month ago that these undocumented immigrants did not qualify for federal health insurance.
"Immigrants granted such relief [under the executive order] would ordinarily meet the definition of 'lawfully present' residents, making them eligible for government subsidies to buy private insurance, a central part of the new health care law. But the administration issued a rule in late August that specifically excluded the young immigrants from the definition of 'lawfully present,'" reported the Times.
"At the same time, in a letter to state health officials, the administration said that young immigrants granted a reprieve from deportation 'shall not be eligible' for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program. Administration officials said they viewed the immigration initiative and health coverage as separate matters," said the paper.
From a health care perspective, what sense does it make to keep at risk to ill health these young, undocumented immigrations?
The president wants them in the country, but doesn't care if they are healthy residents.
From a moral perspective, the biblical teaching about hospitality and welcoming the stranger requires complete care and provisions for well being. Welcoming the undocumented into society while denying them access to health care benefits is no real welcome.
Obama has long pointed the finger of blame at Republicans for the lack of comprehensive immigration reform.
And, Lord knows, most Republicans have been politically knot-headed and morally hard-hearted. But in this case, Obama is the problem.
He is playing politics with faith and immigration, wanting a generous slice of the God-vote and an extra helping from Hispanics.
His actions raise questions about his faith and his commitment to the undocumented.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.