Immigration and the Bible
James R. Aist
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are appointed by God.” (Romans 13:1)
For what it’s worth, I’m going to talk about immigration. In particular, I’m going to discuss immigration, both legal and illegal, from Mexico into the United States of America. This is a contemporary issue that has legal, cultural and religious implications. So it is important, insofar as possible, that we develop our understanding, and base our stand, on God’s word, the Holy Bible. So, to get us started, here are three of the most relevant passages in the Old Testament: “You must neither wrong a foreigner nor oppress him, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21); “When a foreigner sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The foreigner who dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34); and “It shall come to pass that you shall divide it by lot for an inheritance among yourselves and among the aliens who sojourn among you, who shall bear sons among you. And they shall be to you as born in the country among the sons of Israel. They shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel, (Ezekiel 47:22).
Now, these are, of course, instructions given by God to the Israelites concerning the treatment of foreigners (aliens). Apparently, there were no “immigration laws” regulating immigration itself, and there was no such thing as an “illegal alien.” Within that context, God is saying that aliens residing among the Jews – and their offspring – are to be treated the same as natural-born citizens. Our immigration laws, while regulating the flow of immigrants into the country, are compatible with these scriptures; once naturalized according to law, immigrants are to be treated the same as natural-born citizens.
The problems arise, of course, when aliens enter the country illegally and take up residence here without going through the legal, naturalization process. Currently, we have about eight million illegal aliens in America who are otherwise hard-working, law-abiding people, and our border with Mexico is woefully ineffective in regulating the influx of additional illegal aliens. So, there are really two problems: 1) how to effectively close the border and stop further illegal immigration; and 2) what to do about the very large present population of illegal immigrants (i.e, export them back to their country of origin, or, instead, develop – insofar as possible – an equitable path to naturalization and citizenship).
I’m all for closing our borders to minimize illegal immigration as much as possible. If that requires an actual, physical wall, then so be it. And, I’m all for jailing or deporting all illegal immigrants who have committed other crimes (e.g., felonies) on U.S. soil. But, when it comes to the otherwise law-abiding, illegal immigrants, I believe we can and should find a way to citizenship for them, for the sake of compassion, mercy, grace and family unity. I’m not talking about a free pass here; I am talking about a new approach to naturalization. We need to make the path to citizenship easier, quicker and cheaper for all aliens seeking to live in America legally. I am suggesting that the legal process be improved to benefit all new immigrants, and that the illegal aliens then be given a chance to pay their dues too, just as all others have. So, after the border is secure and the criminals are dealt with appropriately, let’s give the present illegal aliens a window of time to sign up for and complete the new and improved legal process, with the same legal rights and benefits already afforded to our present legal immigrants. Then, let’s deport those who choose not to participate, and try to stay here illegally; consequences of their decision will then be entirely on them, not us. This would be a one-time opportunity; after that, both present and new illegal aliens should be dealt with by either jailing (if criminals) or deportation, with no provision for future, legal re-entry for any of them.
How does this approach relate to God’s will as revealed in the Bible? Romans 13:1 says “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are appointed by God.” This tells me that God can extend His mercy and grace to us through the actions of our governing authorities, because they are appointed by God, who is full of compassion, grace and mercy (Psalm 86:15), to govern over us. Therefore, it is possible, and necessary, for a human government to grant mercy and/or grace in some circumstances, in order for it to honor the God who gave it authority over us in the first place. Human “governors” are responsible to God for how they represent God, the very One who chose them to govern. Refusing to ever extend compassion, grace and mercy to our illegal aliens would be, therefore, a dereliction of duty. God gave them the power and the authority to govern; therefore, it is, in fact, within the power and the authority of human government to extend compassion, mercy and grace to our present illegal aliens on behalf of God. Moreover, we are made in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:26), and Jesus himself commanded us to “Be therefore merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Are we then to withhold compassion, mercy and grace from our present illegal aliens? Heaven forbid!
But, you may object, wouldn’t this approach be unfair to the millions of naturalized citizens who immigrated and took up residence in America legally? Here’s my reply to that objection. First, the rights and privileges of the earlier, legal immigrants would not be compromised or diminished in any way. Second, the illegal aliens would be naturalized in essentially the same way as were the earlier, legal immigrants. And third, but perhaps most importantly, God does not always deal with us fairly; and we would not want Him to. All of us deserved to be condemned to hell, because we all have sinned and fall short of the righteousness that God requires (Romans 3:23). No, we want God to deal with us, not with fairness, but with mercy and grace, so that we can be saved. In the same way, then, I believe that God wants us to treat our illegal aliens with compassion, mercy and grace, even if that seems unfair to some of us. It would seem to be the Godly thing to do.
(To read more of my BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)