Separating migrant families goes beyond just applying the law. More broadly, in practice, and by design, attorneys general have a lot of flexibility in how they apply the law, and Sessions clearly gets a kick out of applying it in a highly restrictionist way. After all, there is no formal law requiring children to be separated from their families. Also, Christians who don’t want to apply laws they deem unjust do have an option: resign. To Trump’s occasional chagrin, Sessions doesn’t seem to have considered that. And everybody knows why: He’s putting immigration restrictions in place not because he’s a civil servant who puts his own wishes aside and dutifully follows the rules, but because he believes them to be greatly desirable. So if he wants to defend his actions based on the Bible, he should defend the merits of his actions, rather than hide behind Romans 13.
But this little skirmish might have served some purpose, by drawing attention to what the Bible says about immigration policy. America’s immigration policy for more than 20 years has been to have one set of written laws and another set of unwritten ones, making a mockery of the rule of law and playing no small part in the delegitimization of the political process that has empowered demagogues like Trump. When Sessions, expounding on Romans 13, said that applying the law protects both the weak and the lawful, he might have been disingenuous with regard to his own actions, but he was certainly right in general. So, there’s a lesson here for both sides: Just as conservatives need to wrestle with the plainly clear Biblical verses about sympathy to the stranger, progressives need to account for the clear Biblical verses about the necessity for sound government and rule of law.
To their credit, some Evangelicals who’ve backed Trump up until now have, to the surprise of Trump and Sessions, broken with him on this barbarity.