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BY GUTHRIE GRAVES-FITZSIMMONS

August 1, 2019


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Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris are among those candidates whose past is under fire. Will they be able to learn repentance for the harm their past actions have caused?
During the Democratic presidential debate, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris came under attack from fellow candidates for their past positions and policies. Here is the backstory on three of the biggest issues:
“Be alert. If you see your friend going wrong, correct him. If he responds, forgive him. Even if it’s personal against you and repeated seven times through the day, and seven times he says, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.” - Luke 17:3-4
What did you think of the second round of the Democratic debates? For me, it was several candidates who appeared unable to apologize and repent for past views and actions that they find objectionable. If you're a Christian, you believe people can change for the better. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus' call for people to repent and follow God is built on the belief that people are capable of change.
 
Sadly, several of the candidates who came under attack during the debate deflected questions about their past, made excuses, pivoted to Trump, or attempted to focus on their current beliefs. We all know Trump claims he has never needed to repent in his life. Hopefully, Democratic candidates running for president can do better.
 
I'm going to address immigration specifically, although there were a number of issues that came up during the debate, including desegregation, the death penalty, criminal justice reform, and votes for the Iraq War. I want to discuss immigration because it's the issue I know the best. From 2011-2015, I worked at the National Immigration Forum to mobilize people of faith for comprehensive immigration reform. If you don't know the deeply upsetting history of why immigration activists were disappointed in the Obama administration and pushed the president to take Executive Action with DACA, here's a good reminder: "Obama's Long Immigration Betrayal."
 
Trump's immigration policies are obviously far worse than the Obama administration's, but that doesn't erase the harm done under Obama, which includes more than three million deportations. Vice President Biden and all members of the administration who developed these policies are accountable for them. The most charitable read of the Obama immigration enforcement policies was that the administration did their best at human enforcement while seeking to reform the unjust laws passed by Congress in the past. Even with that understanding of what happened, it shouldn't be hard to admit the administration's failure to pass immigration reform and the devastating impact of deportations. 
 
While we yearn for the end of Trumpism, we must always keep in mind that Democrats reclaiming power isn't our final goal. Our final goal is a moral revolution where the common good is upheld, human dignity respected, and all people can flourish. It's hard for me to imagine a moral administration or president who can't repent for the harm they've caused as they seek to do better in the future. 
 
I want to hear how every Democratic candidate will address migrants at our border, but any candidate with over three million deportations on their record needs to address that, no matter what we think of Trump. 
Get involved in the 2020 primary by volunteering with a campaign, reading about the candidates, and talking to your friends about the election. As you get involved, don't look past any candidate's transgressions. At the same time, never forget that people can evolve and change their views. 
Holy One, we repent of all the evil in our hearts, that which is caused by our direct actions and that which is committed in our name as Americans. Turn our nation towards the common good. Transform our every thought and action to be acceptable to you, and humble us so that we may be quick to ask for forgiveness when we fail to live up to our calling as followers of Jesus. Amen. 
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