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What would Jesus say?
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Conservatives are quick to embrace religious figures who agree with them on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and the right of business owners to deny contraception coverage to their employees.
"God is a Republican" might as well be their slogan, and church attendance is one of the best indicators of partisan loyalty. In 2012, 58 percent of voters who attended worship services weekly voted for Mitt Romney.
But there's a catch. Faith leaders are certainly not immune to political calculation, but they tend to be more interested in principle than partisanship. And during the current crisis on our southern border, with more than 50,000 minors seeking refuge here this year, most religious voices have supported the liberal view: Be humane. Be charitable. Take care of the children first.
Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, eager to prove his conservative credentials to Republican primary voters, ostentatiously ordered 1,000 National Guard troops to patrol the border. The Catholic bishop of El Paso, Mark Seitz, had a very different answer: Send aid, not arms; social workers, not soldiers.
It's not just the lesson of Jesus that matters here, but the lesson of history. It's particularly painful to hear the racist rants we've heard so many times before: Send the children home because they carry foreign ideas and infectious diseases.
Those voices of ignorance have always been wrong, and they are wrong today. And our saner leaders know that. One of them is Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, who notes 62 percent of his constituents are either immigrants or children of immigrants.
"These are children," he recently told a forum on the young migrants. "Let's get them someplace safe and secure, let's get them legal representation, which is what this country has always stood for ... We have to ask ourselves who we are as Americans at moments like this."
Yes we do. One answer: Congress should approve President Obama's request for $3.7 billion in emergency funds, much of it aimed at aiding the young people detained at the border. But since that request is blocked by partisan wrangling, private relief organizations have to play a major role.
Under a law passed in 2008 and signed by President Bush, children like Eduardo, 10, from countries like El Salvador, have special rights when they reach the border. Instead of being deported immediately, they are placed with relatives and given the opportunity to argue they deserve to stay in America as refugees.
As their price for supporting Obama's aid request, Republicans want to amend that law and end that option. But the price is too high. The law had a good purpose when it was passed, and it still does. Some of the young immigrants will qualify for permanent residency and some will not, but they all should have a chance to make their case.
That's what Jesus would say. And that's what this country is all about.
Steve and Cokie Roberts can be contacted by email at