Foundations: What is the Christian Perspective on Borders and Immigration?
We, as Christians, are to love our neighbor, care for those in need, and see all as equal in the eyes of God. We are also to seek justice and act with wisdom. All these gather together when considering the issue of immigration.
When looking at immigration from a Christian perspective, it helps to break it down along two tracks:
Legal vs Illegal Immigration.
The government’s role versus that of the individual or the church.
Do Not Oppress the Stranger … But Who’s the Stranger?
Supporters of de facto open borders like to run to the Bible for ammo — many for the only time in their lives. They are particularly fond of citing Leviticus, “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the stranger. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you.” (Leviticus 19:33.)
So scripture clearly teaches us we must welcome the stranger. Yes. But when it comes to immigration, who is the stranger?
The Hebrew word used for “stranger” is “ger.” This refers to one given sojourn to live as an alien with God’s people. It is one who agrees to abide by the nation’s ways. In our terms, this is someone granted legal authority to be in the U.S. The legal alien. This is distinguished from nekhar or zar, meaning, foreigner. One who does not have such permission. The illegal alien. This distinction also warns us against welcoming large numbers of people who in principle reject our nation’s ways. For instance, intolerant Islamists who favor sharia law. (Remember that Israel was not to welcome idolaters.)
So, a legal alien willing to assimilate is to be welcomed. What does this mean in practice? The Book of Numbers gives us an idea:
There shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the LORD. One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you (Numbers 15:15-16)
For example, the ger could receive social benefits such as the right to glean in the fields (Lev 19:9-10, Deut 24:19-22). The ger and citizen deserved equal pay (Det 24:14). And so forth.
As the Center for Immigration Studies notes, “no such provision is extended to the nekhar or zar.”
So a Christian looking at the government’s role in immigration does have to acknowledge there is a difference between a legal and illegal immigrant. There is a difference between a stranger agreeing to abide by our laws and a foreigner whose first act is to violate our laws. Or immigrants who move here with the intent to replace our religious freedom with something very different.
This statement puts it well:
We cannot continue to allow people to enter the United States undetected, undocumented and unchecked … Those who enter our country’s borders illegally and those who employ them disrespect the rule of law.
Incidentally, that’s from the 2008 party platform of the Democratic Party.
Illegal Immigration is Morally Corrosive
As a Christian, one must consider the corrosiveness of illegal immigration. We often hear talk of people forced to live in shadows. We know how often illegal immigrants in this country end up exploited. We know about the violent crimes too many of them commit. We hear less about how a vast majority of illegal immigrants are committing the crime of identity theft with the use of false documents. Overall, we see a system built on sin.
But let’s look at an example of a more subtle way illegal immigration is morally corrosive:
At a Home Depot in Van Nuys, California, a pavilion stands out in the parking lot. In the pavilion are day laborers, mostly legal aliens, who have been cleared to legal work in the United States. However, circulating around the parking lot and lined up on the street are other day laborers, illegal aliens. Imagine being the legal alien looking out, watching as a pick-up truck filled with construction gear pulls up and waves into the back a couple of the illegals. You did it right, yet you’re not the one earning a wage that day. What’s that do to your spirit? What lesson does your child learn?
Speaking of children, how Christian is it to support policies that encourage parents to send their children along with vicious coyotes on the dangerous journey to America? Policies that encourage a journey where between 30% and 80% of the women and girls will be sexually assaulted. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones,” said Jesus Christ. (Matthew 18:10)
And illegal immigration also undermines the very strength that has allowed America to be the world’s most generous country for decades now.
“I Was Thirsty and You Gave Me Drink”
All this said, we face a difficult question: How are we to treat those who do arrive in this country illegally?
Jesus gives us the answer: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matthew 25:31-40: In the biblical Greek, the word “stranger” is xenos, which means “alien or foreigner,” with a secondary meaning of “guest.” Further, the Lord’s parable of The Great Samaritan shows us we are to care for those who are in need, regardless of who they are.
Yet, what one is quick to notice is these are personal acts. You gave the Lord food, it says. Not the government. The Good Samaritan took care of the injured man, personally paid for his care. We cannot off-load our responsibility. We do what we can do, as called, as the body of Christ and as individual followers of Christ.
During the Great Depression, Mexican immigrants (legal and illegal) were starving on the streets of Los Angeles. Pentecostal evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson set up a commissary at her Angelus Temple. Her ministry fed and saved the lives of tens of thousands of people.
During the recent pandemic, stories abound of churches doing miraculous work assisting their communities.
Many Gifts, Many Callings
Understand, the nature of the help takes many forms. Some feel called to assist arriving illegals with food and water. Others teach immigrants English so they can more quickly assimilate and achieve the American dream. God calls some to support missions in struggling lands to lift citizens so they need not make the journey; instead they can raise their own nation. Some are called to be border agents. Some are called to fight for a sane, sensible, practical national approach.
Two Stream writers John Zmirak and Al Perrotta wrote a book on the history of immigration in America — good, bad and ugly — which offers clear thinking and solutions. Check out The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration.
The Harmony of Ingredients
As Christians we are to treasure each person as a unique creation of God. As citizens, we cannot destroy the common good by rashly interpreting those words. America is not the Kingdom of Heaven. It doesn’t have room for everyone.
So how do we, as a nation do what is healthiest for our nation? We start by rejecting the idea of America as a melting pot. You cannot toss just anything into a melting pot and expect to end up with gold. Instead we look to a phrase used by Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, himself an immigrant. When considering whom we should welcome into the country, Hamilton desired a “harmony of ingredients.”
In other words, those who would bring their unique flavors, but were capable of blending together. In this case, those who share the Judeo-Christian values undergirding the nation. Those who value the individual, valued self-reliance, valued God. It’s not about ethnicity. It’s about ethics.
Give us a million tired and poor who thirst for liberty over a thousand scholars well-fed on secularism. Or, as Europe has actually experienced, a million orthodox Muslims open to jihad.
Give us those who are happy to say “God Bless America.”
Roy Beck, The Case Against Immigration.
George Borjas, We Wanted Workers.
Patrick Buchanan, The Death of the West.
Anne Coulter, Adios America.
Douglas Murray, The Strange Death of Europe.