By Peter Jones
I am not an expert on immigration. I do not know the laws inside and out. I have paid little attention to the debate over the last decade or so. But over the last couple of months I have become convinced that I need to do more thinking about it. It is not as important as the murder of babies or sodomy or even women in the military, but it does matter. Here are some of my initial thoughts on immigration in no particular order and subject to revision.
First, on principle Christians should have no objection to immigration. There is no biblical law or principle that would forbid people coming into our country from other countries. We have no reason to fear their presence. Most of our ancestors were immigrants. Our fathers in the faith migrated to Egypt (Genesis 47). There is an irrational fear of “losing our country to foreigners” or of “American culture being unalterably changed” among political conservatives which conservative Christians often adopt. Christians should not think this way. I know some Christians will say they only fear illegal immigration. That may be true, but the language is frequently applied across the board to immigrants.
Second, Christians should love immigrants, legal or illegal because they are our neighbors (Leviticus 19:34). They are not political pawns to be used to gain votes or to bash the other party by showing that the Republicans have no compassion or that Democrats do not care about our country. They are people created in the image of God. Political expediency and love for America is not the primary concern. Are we loving them and are we helping them to love God.
Third, Christians are called upon to obey the civil magistrate in all circumstances that do not include disobedience to God. Therefore illegal immigrants who are Christians should repent of the sin of disobeying the authorities God has placed over them and begin working towards legal status. This would include accepting any penalty the law may enforce for their disobedience. Christian business men should not hire illegal immigrants and should repent if they have and again take any penalty the government may enforce. Pastors who minister to illegal immigrants should call on them to repent of refusing to obey the God-ordained authority and work with them so they can get legal status.
Fourth, Christians should not oppose making it easier for someone to become part of our country. Looking at the USCIS page it appears that in order to become a citizen you have to have been here 5 years and pass a civics test and English language test, as well as be a person of “good moral character.” I think the civics test and English language test make sense, but the 5 year wait could be amended. However, there are millions of legal immigrants who enter our country every year. So the effort must be worth it for most immigrants. Our goal, as Christians, should not be to make it as hard as we can for someone to participate in American civic life.
Fifth, magistrates have a duty to protect their citizens. Therefore it is not absurd for the government to try to keep out of our country evil doers and trouble makers. Nor is it wrong to have a process for becoming a citizen. But criminals will be criminals. Conservatives say the same thing with guns. We know that wicked men circumvent gun laws, so wicked men will get around our immigration laws. Just as someone going on a murderous rampage is not a good reason to punish law abiding, gun owning citizens, so a legal or illegal immigrant who does wrong is not a good reason to punish the millions who are here and intend no harm. The Tsarnaev brothers, who were here legally, have been cited as a problem with America’s immigration policy by conservatives. But this is hypocrisy, unless you also want to cite Adam Lanza as a problem with American’s gun policy.
Sixth, I am not sure what to do with the 11 million illegal immigrants in our country. As Christians we should not approach them with fear. And yet, God calls upon us to obey the authorities. My initial (and very tentative) response is to create a streamlined pathway to citizenship, but keep them from voting in elections for at least one presidential cycle. This would prevent the passage of legislation for the sake of gaining votes. It does not seem that straight amnesty is a good choice. A price should be paid because they broke the law. In this case the price would be that they could not participate in elections.
Seventh, the biggest problem with immigration is not the immigrants, but the bloated, red-taped obsessed, welfare dispensing U.S. government. A lot of critiques of immigration focus on the financial costs of supporting them. But this would not even be a problem if our government did not provide free healthcare, education, welfare, etc. The current arrangement does make immigrants a drain financially. It should not be that way. Also the U.S. government does not truly care for her own citizens. She makes us dependent upon her so we stay on her leash. She spies on us and removes our basic civil rights without due process. Why would we assume they will treat immigrants any other way? Is it really loving our neighbor by encouraging U.S. citizenship? Right now, I still think yes. But the time could come where Christians might encourage potential immigrants to get out of Sodom.
As Christians we have a great opportunity to love those entering our country instead of using them and to call upon them to worship the living God, which would include submitting to the authorities God has place over us. Adopting conservative talking points on immigration will often put us at odds with the Bible. Therefore all of us, but especially those in states where immigrants are common, need to think carefully about how we can show genuine, biblical love for those legal and illegal immigrants around us.
Peter Jones is the pastor of Christ Church of Morgantown, he has eight children, but unlike Jacob only one wife. He also blogs at Singing and Slaying.