In Federal Court, a Baptist Judge Weighs the Future of US Immigration

The Texas suit reflects a broader evangelical debate over how many strangers are too many to welcome.

Long before he was seated as a federal judge in the southern district of Texas, Drew Tipton starred in a high school musical.

In 1977, when he was just ten, Tipton landed the title role in Angleton High School’s fall play. The show was Oliver!, an adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist. Pulling it off required a community-wide effort in the 10,000-person town of Angleton, Texas. The cast drew not only from the high school, but also from the local middle school and three elementary schools.

During rehearsals, when the young Tipton danced and sang among youth nearly twice his size, he put “forth an unusual effort and shows great confidence,” according to a local newspaper, The Brazosport Facts. To that, Tipton simply added: “It makes me feel excited to be doing the lead role.”

Like his father, the pastor of Angleton’s Second Baptist Church, Tipton enjoyed speaking before a crowd. He would later say, as an adult, that it was part of what led him to the law.

“My parents were consistently convinced that great things lay in store for me,” Tipton told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing in February 2020, by then an attorney at a Houston law firm specializing in employment law and trade secrets litigation.

If this were a Dickens novel, then Tipton’s breakout performance as a child—portraying a destitute boy rescued by a distant wealthy relative—would be almost too good a foreshadowing of the drama before him now. In his fourth year as a district judge, Tipton must consider a case that will decide whether thousands of people can escape desperate circumstances with the help of benevolent friends and family.

What is perhaps …

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