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Many evangelicals, due in part to the unfortunate influence of groups like the George Soros-funded Evangelical Immigration Table, have not had the chance to take a thorough look at what the Bible teaches about immigration. What follows is a contribution to this discussion among friends.
One often ignored principle in the evangelical debate over immigration policy is that the Bible clearly teaches support for the rule of law. Romans 13 makes this abundantly clear. Good laws are to be honored and respected by all. God has given to civil government authority to sanction and punish the transgression of its laws, which are designed to “ensure domestic tranquility,” as the Founders put it, by preserving peace and stability. As Paul put it, God’s desire is that our political leaders act in such a way that “we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2).
This makes any support for illegal immigration highly problematic for right-thinking evangelicals. An illegal alien, is by definition, a law-breaker.
So evangelicals ought to support legal immigration while firmly opposing immigration of the illegal variety. The orderly process of legal immigration allows us to screen those who wish to live here for criminal behavior and for disease, which compromise our national security and our nation’s health respectively.
Ellis Island existed primarily to screen prospective immigrants for communicable diseases. Such a concern is not mean-spirited in the least. It’s what a compassionate government does to protect the health of its citizens. In America, illegal immigration is responsible for the return of exotic tropical diseases and diseases which once had been eradicated on American soil.
Germany, which has now been overwhelmed by a tsunami of illegal immigration, is dealing with a host of newly introduced diseases including cholera, a disease which hadn’t appeared in Germany for 23 years. There is nothing compassionate about that.
Illegal aliens endanger our social stability in numerous other ways. Kate Steinle is dead, cut down in the prime of life by a man who had no legal right to be in this country, and had already been deported no less than five times. He kept returning to San Francisco for one reason: he knew San Francisco would not honor the rule of law. Kate Steinle’s family paid the ultimate price. There is nothing compassionate about that.
Virtually every day we read stories of illegal aliens, often previously convicted of crimes and deported, who murder and rape American citizens. South-of-the border drug cartels are ravaging the peace of one community after another, straining law enforcement resources to the breaking point and endangering American families whose sons and daughters become victims of drugs and the violence associated with them. There is nothing compassionate about that.
We all recognize the difference between someone who breaks and enters through the back door of a home and an invited guest who politely rings the doorbell and waits to be welcomed in. In the one case, we call the police, who will courteously but firmly remove the intruders from a place where they have no legal right to be. In the other case, we invite them in and treat them to food, friendship, and fellowship.
Some evangelicals seem to speak as if borders are a hardhearted invention of callous men. On the contrary, the Bible indicates clearly that borders are God’s idea. Paul writes in Acts 17:26 that God himself is the one who has “determined…the boundaries” of nations. A border is not a border unless it means something and can be defended.
Evangelicals often forget that Moses honored national borders and national sovereignty in his day. When Israel approached the border of Edom in its journey to the land of promise, Moses’ request to sojourn in the land of Edom was rejected. When Israel was denied permission for a second time to enter the land by Edom’s king, Moses did not sneak in the country anyway. Nor did he barge in and demand hospitality and welfare benefits from the king. We are told instead that “Israel turned away from him” (Numbers 20:21) and went another way.
Assimilation, another value that is often dismissively rejected by pro-amnesty evangelicals, was an extremely high priority in God’s economy. In Numbers 15, the Lord himself instructed Moses that sojourners were welcome in Israel as long as they assimilated to the culture, the values, and the faith of their host country. Immigrants were instructed to leave behind their own religious values and their own customs, and adopt those of their newly adopted nation. When it came to worship, there was to be “one law and one rule…for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you” (Numbers 15:16).
Ruth is the model immigrant in Scripture. When she accompanied her mother-in-law back to Naomi’s home, she left behind her own gods and her own culture. Eloquently, she said, “Your people shall be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). That’s what assimilation looks like.
Now when someone follows the rule of law, is willing to assimilate (by becoming a non-hyphenated American), and is granted permission to immigrate, of course he should be welcomed. We should do legal immigrants “no wrong” and should embrace them. “You shall love him (the sojourner) as yourself,” God says, “for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34).
The plain fact is that America has honored this principle of embracing newcomers more than any other nation in the history of civilization. Our immigration policy is the most open-hearted and open-handed policy in the world. Every year, we grant legal admission to over one million foreigners and student visas to 700,000 more.
According to Julia Hahn, writing at Breitbart, “a review of public data from the World Bank and U.S. Census Bureau shows that there is no other country on Earth that has accepted even a fraction of the immigrants admitted to the United States over the last 40 years.”
We have a higher foreign-born population percentage than any of the world’s largest countries. Although we represent just 5% of the world’s population, we take in 20 percent of all the migrants worldwide. No other country even approaches five percent. We have, relative to population, taken in 24 times as many migrants as the pope’s home country of Argentina, 40 times more than Mexico, and 75 times more than Brazil. We have taken in six times as many as all of Europe, even though the population of Europe exceeds ours by more than 50 percent.
In other words, we have not only done our fair share, we have done far more than our fair share. And why have we done so? For one reason: this is a Christian country whose values have been shaped by the Judeo Christian tradition. We have a record of which we can be proud and which calls for no apology.
Now every nation can only absorb a finite number of immigrants before it begins to sag under the added weight. A sponge cannot absorb any more water once it has reached its saturation point. And America may well have reached that point. Real hourly wages are lower here than they were in 1973, and all the net job creation from 2000-2014 has gone to foreign workers.
Calvin Coolidge reduced immigration rates in his day (1924) so newcomers could fully assimilate into American life and so that the crush of absorbing so many strangers would not overwhelm us and hamper our ability to receive newcomers in the future.
Said Coolidge, “We want to keep wages and living conditions good for everyone who is now here or who may come here. As a Nation, our first duty must be to those who are already our inhabitants, whether native or immigrants. To them we owe an especial and a weight obligation.” That’s compassion, both for the native-born American, for the foreign-born American, and for those who wish to become Americans in the future.
Bottom line: biblical immigration policy will reflect both justice and compassion, not one at the expense of the other. Biblical immigration policy will honor the rule of law, the sovereignty of our national borders, the importance of assimilation, and the importance of embracing those who have the legal right to be here. A Christian nation can do no less.
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)
© Bryan Fischer