In preventing care for unaccompanied minors, Florida’s governor is interfering with US law and religious freedoms.
In December, Florida governor Ron DeSantis issued an “emergency rule” blocking the issuance and renewal of state licenses for organizations that serve unaccompanied migrant children, including many faith-based organizations.
Recently, Floridian evangelical pastors joined other religious leaders and laypeople in urging the governor to reconsider this decision, which both puts vulnerable children at risk and impinges on the religious liberty of Floridians.
Governor DeSantis’s stated rationale for the order is focused on preventing the resettlement of “illegal aliens” to the state, but the reality is that the unaccompanied migrant children at the center of this debate are being treated precisely how US law requires.
The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act is a law that President Bush signed after significant advocacy from evangelical leaders in 2008.
It states that when the Border Patrol identifies a child from a noncontiguous country seeking protection at the US-Mexico border without a parent or legal guardian, the patrol is to transfer the child to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure the child is kept safe.
From there, HHS works with a network of childcare providers—which are required to be licensed by the state to ensure they meet appropriate standards. These providers care for the kids until a sponsor is identified, which is usually the child’s mother or father who already lives in the US, or another relative.
The child is eventually required to report to an immigration court to determine whether he or she lawfully qualifies to stay in the US.
Christians may agree or disagree with whether this is the best process for responding …