Today there is much debate on immigration reform. In this article I attempt to assert the applicable general biblical principles for this controversial issue. I will also attempt to briefly articulate my own feelings on the topic.
What does the Bible say about welcoming people from other nations?
Nations are blessed or cursed based on how they treat aliens. Read Zechariah 7:9-14:
“Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion
Everyone to his brother.
Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless,
The alien or the poor.
Let none of you plan evil in his heart
Against his brother.”
“But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the LORD of hosts. Therefore it happened, that just as He proclaimed and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they had not known. Thus the land became desolate after them, so that no one passed through or returned; for they made the pleasant land desolate.’”
This passage shows that God will curse nations that do not show compassion for their widows, fatherless, the poor, and strangers who come from other countries.
Because Israel didn’t care for the helpless and needy, God scattered them among foreign nations so they could taste the same medicine they gave to those less fortunate!
Neglecting the strangers in a land is cause for one of the curses Moses declared at Mount Ebal (Deuteronomy 27:19).
Jeremiah 7:6-7; 22:3-5 teaches that if aliens and strangers were taken care of then God would enable Israel to remain in their land. But if Israel oppressed them then God would remove them from their land!
On the other hand, those people who came from nations that historically oppressed or threatened Israel were given entrance into the country but not granted the full rights of a Jew for a number of generations (Deuteronomy 23:3, 7-8). Thus, there were some groups that God singled out and limited. (This is perhaps because they were still threats to the nation of Israel? Perhaps nations harboring radical Islamic terrorists should undergo a greater amount of scrutiny and obtain less access to our nation until their harmful elements are purged?)
In general, we can easily conclude that Scripture admonishes God’s people to take care of the helpless (Isaiah 1:17; James 1:27) but also instructs them to use wisdom to protect their sovereign nation from aliens that may be a threat to their security and peace.
What about allowing illegal immigrants full rights as citizens?
Scripture teaches that God did not condone full rights for a stranger to come into Israel UNLESS they converted to the Jewish religion and agreed to keep the laws of the nation. In other words, it was not “carte blanche” for anyone to enter the nation. Hence, God did not expect the Jews to treat non-conforming strangers equally with those who became citizens and kept the Law of Moses. Thus, there was an incredible balance between compassion for strangers and protection for the sovereignty and security of the nation of Israel (Numbers 9:14; Leviticus 24:22). These passages in principle are against those who promote full rights of citizenship and amnesty for those who have entered into this nation illegally and did not go through a process of becoming naturalized citizens.
I say this because there is a foolish notion that our nation should grant illegal aliens driver’s licenses and other privileges so these aliens can begin to enjoy some of the rights of U.S. citizens and also so the government can more easily track them for security reasons.
There is also much talk about calling illegal aliens “undocumented citizens” so as to dispel the false notion (they say) that they are illegal. Thus, there is no real need for a person who sneaks into this country to be acculturated into the American system in a way that includes illegal aliens to learn and swear allegiance to our great nation’s principles and ideals so they can become naturalized citizens.
Those who promote this position are really purporting a position that destroys the sovereignty and uniqueness of the United States. (Not even Mexico allows illegal immigration to be unchecked!) If anyone could sneak into this country and break immigration laws, then what does that say for those who go through the trouble of coming into this country legally? (This would open up a Pandora’s Box resulting in no one entering our country the legal way.)
Also, what does this say to Mexicans and other immigrant groups who are hard working and have entered into this nation legally? Without checks and balances everything becomes watered down, hurting the trust and respect between America and Mexico and their citizens (as well as other nations).
Even in a business transaction two people usually sign a contract based on mutually agreed upon financial and work-related protocols that ensure accountability, communication, transparency, and trust. Getting rid of the term “illegal” and replacing it with “undocumented” throws all protocols to the wind and opens the door for both the good and the bad (terrorists) to enter our nation equally. (Although the overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants from countries like Mexico are very hard working people and not terrorists or drug traffickers.)
What should be done?
Because the United States is largely to blame for the immigration mess (since our government has not enforced existing immigration laws or done everything reasonably possible to close the U.S. border) there seems to have been a de-facto law enabling illegal aliens entry into our nation. This is because the overwhelming majority of these illegal aliens are hard working and, in some ways, contribute to our economy: they work for less than the average U.S. citizen while not receiving health benefits or social security.
However, when all is said and done illegal aliens still visit hospital emergency rooms, some are criminals, they work without paying any taxes, and some purchase homes illegally and do other things for economic survival meant only for U.S. citizens. Overall this puts an enormous strain on our economy and greatly diminishes the good that comes from their hard work.
What am I saying we should do as a nation? Should we just round up every illegal alien and throw them out? (Something federal law enforcement authorities have the right to do but hardly ever do in most urban centers of our nation.) I would be against such an extreme measure because, as I said, the U.S. is to blame for not enforcing existing immigration laws. I think practically we should have different categories for illegal immigrants:
-Illegal immigrants in process: For those who have families, are working, and are connected to a church or other association in which upstanding citizens can vouch for them. Those who fall into this category should be allowed to stay conditionally upon their swearing allegiance to our nation and being willing to immediately go through a naturalization process towards full citizenship.
-Illegal immigrants on probation: Those illegal immigrants who are socially disconnected and are without a job, family, or without an institution like a church should be interviewed carefully and perhaps given an opportunity to be trained for a job and put on probation for several months. Those not willing to work or who refuse to conform should be deported.
-High-risk illegal immigrants: Those who have committed serious crimes involving drugs or violence either in the U.S. or Mexico. I believe these should be immediately detained and deported. The same should hold true for those found with a cache of drugs or in possession of guns or weapons. These should be deported immediately even if they belong to a church, have a family, or have a job. Those foolish enough to behave like this forfeit any right they have to become naturalized citizens!
Regarding the new immigration law passed in Arizona that enables police to check the documentation of possible illegal immigrants for the purpose of detaining and then deporting them: I don’t know enough about the specifics of this law to comment. But in general I will say that I have a dear friend who has participated in high-level briefings with sheriffs on the border towns of Texas and Arizona. What he has told me sends chills down my spine! I cannot repeat everything he has told me, but I will say that the media is not reporting everything that is really happening. I have heard that sheriffs in border towns are forced to give up their town’s sovereignty because of violence done to their families. Phoenix is now the U.S. capital for kidnappings!
Many U.S. citizens are afraid even on U.S. soil so I am not so quick to condemn the Arizona law although I am sure there are some foibles in it and perhaps there may even be some overreaction in the law. However, “desperate times call for desperate measures” and until or unless the federal government has a better idea and does something to secure the borders, enforce the law, and protect U.S. sovereignty for these border towns, Arizona and other states will be forced to enact their own policies to protect U.S. citizens, whether we like it or not.