In this series on religion and politics we have examined the relationship of church and state with regards to a variety of social and cultural issues, and what should be the Christian response. In this article I would like to explore another hot-button issue — immigration, or more specifically illegal immigration.
This is an emotionally charged debate that is both political and scriptural. So, what should a Christian’s attitude be towards immigrants who are not in the country legally? What does the Bible say? Well, the Old Testament has a lot to say about aliens in the land, and national sovereignty. The church hierarchy (Catholic and Protestant) has been supportive of not only immigration reform, but the establishment of sanctuary cities. The laity (church members), on the other hand, are more inclined to favor border control and enforcement.
Liberals are skilled at reframing the debate with regards to complex issues. For example, abortion becomes a debate over women’s rights; homosexual behavior becomes a debate over civil rights (not the same thing, by the way); and the flow of illegal immigrants across the border becomes a debate about undocumented workers. The common refrain is this, “There are no illegal people.”
However, we must not lose sight of the underlying fact that this problem is the result of millions of foreign citizens violating the national sovereignty of the United States. There are 11 million lawbreakers who are in this country illegally. That is the problem.
From the left I have heard charges of racism leveled against people who support border enforcement. How is it that territorial integrity and border security are a racial issue? Is Mexico racist for defending its southern border? Did you know that it’s a felony to illegally enter Mexico? How often have you seen Mexican flags being waved at immigration protests in the United States? You will never see similar demonstrations — Nicaraguans waving their national flag — to protest immigration policy in Mexico. It’s against the law.
Still, the Bible is very clear as to how we should treat strangers in our land.
When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:33-34).
Should we not show compassion, mercy and love to all people — even to those who are undocumented? Are we not commanded to love our neighbor? Who, then, is our neighbor? Does mercy trump the law? Grace towards one another, compassion for other people, loving God and your neighbor — all of these are more important than the law, or religion.
Quoting Hosea 6:6 our Lord said,
If only you had known the meaning of ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent (Matthew 12:7).
In a speech on immigration (November 20, 2014), President Obama tugged on the nation’s heartstrings by framing the debate in a very personal and emotional way. In closing remarks he alluded to the Bible:
Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger –- we were strangers once, too.
The President of the United States quoting the Bible? Where was the uproar, protest and outrage from the ACLU? Why didn’t the liberal media charge the President with violating the principle of separation of church and state?
I highly recommend that you read The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens, and the Bible (Crossway, 2009) by James K. Hoffmeier, Professor of Old Testament and Near Eastern Archaeology at Trinity International University. In his book, Professor Hoffmeier addresses this issue from a Biblical world view:
Secularists and liberals, both political and religious, are typically loath to consult the Bible when it comes to matters of public policy. So it is somewhat surprising that in the current debate about the status of illegal immigrants, the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible is regularly cited in defense of the illegal. 
Stephen Steinlight, an American Jew, testified before Congress on May 22, 2007. As a Senior Policy Analyst (Center for Immigration Studies), he appeared before the House Subcommittee on Immigration:
My religious values are rooted in Judaism’s prophetic tradition (of justice). The millions that have entered America unlawfully and broken countless laws to remain traduce (malign) these principles.
Since the devil can quote Scripture, it’s not surprising how frequently faith representatives supporting immigration bills employ it — or, rather — abuse it — obsessing on passages from the Hebrew Bible, especially Leviticus 19. This includes the Jewish Establishment, which surveys show does not speak for America’s Jews. Ordinary Jews, like most Americans, are not xenophobes, but draw a bright line between legal and illegal immigration.
Steinlight told Congress that we cannot quote the Hebrew Bible to defend illegal immigration, and he finished his remarks by giving the politicians a lesson in Hebrew. For example, the Hebrew word for sojourner, alien or stranger (גֵּ֖ר, ger) is defined by its contextual usage. As such, we understand the word stranger in terms of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt. Did Israel dwell in Egypt as illegal immigrants? No, they entered legally with the permission of Pharaoh.
So, yes, we have an obligation to love all people, but we cannot overlook a greater sin that 11 million aliens are living here illegally. Does not the United States government have the responsibility to secure its borders? In fact, God established national boundaries and ordained government to exercise appointed sovereignty.
If we’re going to quote Scripture then let’s have a look at Proverbs 6:30–31:
People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry, but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house.
Who will pay the cost of providing medical care, education, and social services to millions of illegal residents? Several major studies present conflicting assessments regarding the cost of illegal immigration.
Prestigious liberal policy analysis groups such as California’s Rand Corporation and the Washington-based Urban Institute and Carnegie Endowment echoed collaborating economists within the Department of Labor and the Council of Economic Advisors.
Some of these studies, though professing immigration to be an excellent investment, were ambiguous in their actual data. Studies by the Urban Institute and Rand of immigration in California acknowledged that the taxes paid by their study populations of Mexican immigrants fell short of the state and county services provided them. The Urban Institute also found that Mexican immigrants were “substitutes” for low-skilled U.S. workers, particularly minorities, but ignored the fiscal costs of the consequent joblessness. 
Hospitals and emergency rooms across the Southwest, and in my community, have been forced to close because they could not bear the cost of providing medical care to illegal immigrants. The penal system, at the state and Federal level, is also heavily burdened by the tens of thousands of undocumented inmates.
In the decade following 9/11, the United States spent $90 billion dollars to secure the border, but it did not stop the flow of illegals and drugs. Will Mexico pay that bill? Will the 11 million who got across pay that bill? Will the babies born to illegal parents pay the bill?
Thousands of undocumented, pregnant women cross the border every year to deliver their babies. They do so to exploit the legal provision of the 14th Amendment which automatically grants citizenship to babies born in the United States. These anchor babies then establish the parent’s legal right to stay in the country. According to the Pew Research Center, illegal immigrants make up 4% of the population, but their share of births is higher than the native residents.
What does that mean? That illegal immigrants are having more babies than native-born citizens. This will profoundly shape the cultural identity of the United States in the decades following. Cheech Marin appeared on a local news program and quipped, “I’d like to see America go back to Mexico.”
As Christians, we MUST be loving and compassionate people, but the alien invasion is totally out of context with what the Bible teaches regarding submission to ordained authority. Of course, the attitude of undocumented foreign nationals is to dismiss the rule of law as if it doesn’t apply to them. This is an egregious violation of our national sovereignty.
This problem isn’t limited to human trafficking. According to the Office of National Drug Control, 660,000 pounds of cocaine, 44,000 pounds of heroin, and 220,000 pounds of methamphetamine are smuggled across the border every year. The Justice Department determined that the total cost of illicit drugs — medical, judicial, and economic — is $193 billion dollars per year. [Source]
I’m going to say this as plainly as I can:
Mexico poses a national security threat to the United States.
In the end, this is a Mexican problem. The Mexican government has failed to be compassionate towards its own people, and God will judge them rightly.
To the liberals in this country who favor granting amnesty — this will only encourage another ten million to cross the border. Republicans (who wanted cheap labor), and Democrats (who wanted cheap votes) should be handed their pink slip for failing to uphold an oath to protect this nation.
From 1880 to 1920 there was a massive influx of European immigrants into the United States. Through Ellis Island, 12 million immigrants were legally and medically processed. The standards at Ellis Island were these: No entry if you were contagious, had a criminal record, or were qualified only for contract labor. These rules were enforced in consideration of public health, public safety and jobs. Think about that the next time you hear someone declare of illegals, “They’re only taking jobs Americans don’t want.” In fact, illegal immigrants effect downward pressure on wages; and steal opportunity from the poorest, least-educated, native citizen.
In his speech, President Obama noted a young woman named Astrid Silva who was brought to America when she was four years-old. She learned English watching PBS, and is now a college student working on her third degree.
Then, did you hear the story of the Texas Valedictorian who announced in her commencement speech that she is an illegal immigrant? She blamed the United States that her family has had to live in fear. Oh, and she received a full scholarship to attend Yale University. The President said in his remarks that no one should be allowed to cut in line and receive favorable treatment. I am a citizen of this country, and I never had the opportunity to attend Yale — nor have thousands of distressed American youth trapped in the sinking poverty of our inner cities.
Where is the compassion? Where is the love for our fellow citizens?
What the President didn’t address in his speech was the darker side of this story. Former Department of Justice attorney J. Christian Adams told Fox News there is an illegal immigrant crime wave of staggering proportions.
The outrage continues over the killing of San Francisco resident, Kathryn Steinle, who was murdered by an illegal immigrant who should have been deported except for the fact that San Francisco has declared itself to be a sanctuary city.
Catholic Bishops who have supported safe-havens for illegal immigrants will cite the Bible as the authority for the establishment of sanctuary cities.
(The lesson here is, never let a Catholic interpret the Hebrew Bible.)
In the Torah there were instructions to establish six sanctuary cities — three on either side of the Jordan River — Golan, Ramoth, and Bosor, on the east, and Kedesh, Shechem, and Hebron on the west. These were Levitical towns where a person accused of involuntary manslaughter — not a capital crime — could flee from certain death at the hands of avenging relatives.
The Bible makes no other provision in this regard.
Crime statistics reveal that deportees most likely will return again. One detainee, after he had been caught the third time said, “The United States is stupid.”
On a personal note, I was coming home late one night — it was after midnight — and I had just latched the door when someone tried to force their way in. I heard no one coming up the stairs behind me so I think this person was hiding in the utility closet outside my door.
I was scared to death because they were determined to force their way into my apartment. I banged on the door to scare them away, but they just pushed harder. My neighbor downstairs was awakened by the commotion, and he stepped outside to see what it was all about. The would-be intruder ran downstairs and charged my neighbor who hurried back inside.
A woman in the neighborhood was coming home, and saw the intruder running down the street. She recognized him as a convicted rapist, and called the police. The man, a Mexican national, had been deported three times in addition to serving a prison sentence on the rape charge. He was apprehended the next day.
I think he wanted to kill me, but by the grace of God I am here to give testimony of an even greater love and compassion — that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was resurrected on the third day, and will return in triumph and glory taking vengeance on those who know Him not. (That should upset the hippies who believe in a flower crowned, gentle Jesus.)
Finally, where is our love and compassion for our fellow citizens who are being victimized by the criminal element that regularly crosses our border? Where is our love and compassion for the families whose loved one was killed by a drunk driver who has thrice been deported? Where is the love and compassion for the parents whose child’s life was sacrificed to the Mexican drug lords?
It is Mexico that fails the Biblical litmus test. The United States, as the aggrieved party, has been more than hospitable in demonstrating Christian charity.
1. The Use and Abuse of the Bible in the Immigration Debate, James K. Hoffmeier, Center for Immigration Studies, Dec. 2011.
2. The Costs of Immigration, Rosemary Jenks, John L. Martin, David Simcox, Center for Immigration Studies, September 1994.
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