[This piece has been updated to include broader information about Standish’s lecture. A parenthetical has been inserted into the body of the article, and Standish’s reply to my email has been added at the bottom. The title has also been altered.]
In October, Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, hosted a lecture by James Standish, who “most recently served as the communications director for the South Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists,” according to the university’s website.
Andrews University is a Seventh-day Adventist college. Though students were not required to attend Standish’s lecture, they are required to “attend 30 co-curricular programs a semester,” of which Standish’s lecture was one of many.
During the latter portion of his lecture, Standish called for students to offer their churches as “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants.
“In the United States, we have a lot of people who are looking for a home. Many of them have found a home here in the United States, but they face constant danger of being deported,” Standish said in a video available on Andrews University’s YouTube channel, as reported by Campus Reform.
After noting that he himself is an immigrant, he said that many other immigrants (legal and illegal) don’t have the ability to successfully engage in the “complicated … system.”
“Many of the people who are now undocumented could have regularized their citizenship at one point or another if they were like me, a lawyer, and understood the system, they had money for a lawyer, if they spoke English better, had greater facility, a thousand things – but they were poor. Not all of them, but many,” Standish stated.
“They didn’t do something that’s a crime of evil or hatred. They just wanted to stay here and build their lives, and for many years they went ahead and built those lives,” he added.
Standish then spoke about the “beautiful, wonderful, amazing” illegal immigrants who allegedly approach him after he gives lectures, and suggested that aside from “animus,” there is no reason the United States should be deporting them.
He said that he was approached by a “church entity” to take a look at the law in light of “members being deported.”
A church entity asked me to look into this because of our members being deported, and one of the things I found is [that the United States] ICE service has a policy, and it’s actually a policy formed from the Bible, believe it or not. You see in the Bible, there is something called sanctuary cities. Then, in the English Common Law, they developed that to have a sanctuary within a church for people who were accused of a crime. And today, except in unusual circumstances, ICE will not raid a church…
This is my challenge to you. Why not open up your church as a sanctuary? Why not say to people who have good reason to be afraid, “If you are afraid, come and live in our church. We will turn our sanctuary into a real sanctuary.”
…People are being hurt right now across this country. Many of them are our brothers and our sisters, and we stand by with our churches empty when they could be sanctuary sanctuaries.
[It should be noted that this was only a portion of a longer lecture pertaining to living one’s Christian faith. Standish also talked about the horrors of abortion, as well as extreme poverty. This is to say that his “conclusion” in which the Underground Railroad and Nazi Germany are discussed, which you will read below, encompasses not only his position on illegal immigration, but on the other topics discussed earlier in his lecture]
Standish concluded by seemingly making a comparison between silence on the illegal immigrant issue (as well as what he discussed prior) to that of silence regarding segregation, slavery, and Nazi Germany:
Conclusion – many of us look back on history and we say if we were alive during the time of the slave time, we would’ve been part of the Underground Railroad. “Oh yeah, that’d be me.” Really? Would you? You could lose your house; you could go to jail. Are you serious? Would you do that?…
You would say, “Hey, but during the Nazis … I would have been rescuing Jews.” Would you? Would you really? And risk being hauled out by the Gestapo? Sent to a concentration camp yourself? Would you do it?
Standish added that people always say they would have “looked down the police dogs and … taken the fire hoses” if they were in the 1960s with Martin Luther King Jr.
“Would you? Honestly, look at yourself in your hearts, and if you wouldn’t, and if you couldn’t, if you refused to, what does your Christianity mean?” he asked.
And if you’re silent now, mark my words, you would’ve been silent then when the stakes were a lot higher. Don’t kid yourself.
According to one of the FAQ sections of the official ICE website, “places of worship, such as churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples” are considered “sensitive locations.”
“Enforcement actions,” in which ICE will typically not engage in a sensitive location, include “apprehensions, arrests, interviews, or searches, and for purposes of immigration enforcement only, surveillance.”
Regarding enforcement actions at “sensitive locations,” the FAQ states: “Enforcement actions may occur at sensitive locations in limited circumstances, but will generally be avoided. ICE officers and agents may conduct an enforcement action at a sensitive location if there are exigent circumstances, if other law enforcement actions have led officers to a sensitive location, or with prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official.”
The Daily Wire reached out to James Standish via social media to ask him if he believes it was appropriate to evoke Nazi Germany and the Underground Railroad in order to draw a moral parallel to the plight faced by undocumented immigrants and those who could shelter them.
Thanks for your note. I admire your stated desire to spark “intellectually honest” discussion. My suggestion is that you watch the speech – it only takes half an hour. As you’ll see, the current headline is misleading. It is far easier to proclaim intellectual honesty than to practice it, but if you desire to do so, you’ll edit the headline.
Although I had indeed watched the speech in full, I rewatched it in order to note any potential blind spots in my reporting. While I don’t believe my headline was “misleading,” I will give Standish the benefit of the doubt, given that his lecture was about more than illegal immigrants. As such, I have altered the title of the piece to allow readers to decide for themselves the appropriateness of Standish’s language choices in his conclusion.
I have also included a parenthetical before the “conclusion” portion noting the wider array of topics discussed in the lecture.