Immigration, Law, and the Bible
11 Feb 2019
The immigration issue is more than just listing a bunch of bible verses, dropping the mic, and walking away in your self-righteousness. Because the Bible also says to follow the law.
I’m not going to list all the definitions about being kind to strangers. You’ve already been bombarded with them in every pro-immigration story on the ‘net. What I’m going to do is provide the opposing view to the immigration problem, which is also supported biblically, and I argue, more completely since it takes in both sides of the issue.
We also have to keep in mind that the laws were different in Biblical time, as well as the borders. When Mary and Joseph fled Israel for Egypt1, they left one Roman province for another Roman province. Was this considered moving from one country to another, such as a move from Mexico to the US? Probably not. It would be more like moving from Guam to the US mainland where you have a US citizen relocating from one territory to another. If Guam starting sinking, would those moving to the mainland be refugees (forced out by natural disaster)?
The important thing to note here, is that the border situations were different then, and the laws regarding refugees were different. When Jesus, Mary, and Joseph wound up in Egypt, they were not there illegally. And to the best of our knowledge, there weren’t people slipping in among them who weren’t going to conform to Egypt’s way of life, or trying to destroy it. I’m guessing they didn’t slip in the back door, and if they had to register with someone, I’m certain they did it. They also probably tried to blend in. In other words, they probably conformed to society as best they could, instead of trying to make Egyptians conform to them.
When Jesus, Mary and Joseph went to Egypt, they became what many call refugees. This alone is enough for some people to say we’re not doing enough. So, first, let’s talk about the definitions of some words we find in the Bible, as well as a some in common use today.
Sojourner: someone who resides temporarily in a place.
The vast majority of illegal aliens that come here, are not here temporarily and have no intention of being here temporarily. Bible verses regarding sojourners do not apply to them.
The term would apply to Jesus, Mary and Joseph when they were forced to flee their home and move to Egypt. They had no intention of living in Egypt permanently, therefore, they were sojourners.
Refugee: a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.
What does forced mean? It means they didn’t want to leave, they had no choice. This is not true with most of the immigrants coming across the border from Mexico. They are leaving of their own free will.
There is no war, persecution, or natural disaster occurring to the south of the U.S. What is occurring is poverty and violence associated with criminals, organized or other. The definition of refugee is specific, and based on that definition, the vast majority of those coming across the southern border of the U.S. are not refugees. Calling them refugees is deceptive.
Jesus and His family met the basic definition of a refugee. They were forced to leave; they didn’t want to. They were targeted by Herod. All children under two became the target of persecution with the ultimate goal of killing Jesus specifically. They were forced to flee, which by definition, makes Jesus, Mary, and Joseph refugees when they went to Egypt.
The definition for Jesus and his family becomes sticky when we refer to the part of the definition that says: leave their country. As mentioned earlier, when you’re moving from one Roman jurisdiction to another, are you leaving your country?
Foreigner: a person born in or coming from a country other than one’s own.
To be clear, there are two types of foreigners: legal and illegal. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were foreigners living in Egypt, and I think it’s safe to assume, they were there legally.
Stranger: a person whom one does not know or with whom one is not familiar.
A stranger is anyone you don’t know. They don’t have to be a foreigner, and they don’t have to be here illegally. Interestingly enough, a foreigner doesn’t have to be a stranger. I’ve met people from other countries, and if they came to visit, they would be foreigners, but they would not be strangers. Actually, I’d love them to come here and visit, so I could show them around.
Alien: belonging to a foreign country or nation.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were aliens when they were living in Egypt.
So, by the way, are the people who are in this country illegally. They meet this definition since they are not U.S. Citizens, they belong to a foreign country or nation.
Illegal alien: a foreign national who is living without authorization in a country of which they are not a citizen.
As mentioned earlier, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph most likely had authorization to live in Egypt. We don’t know what the laws were, and they may have not been as complex as what we have today, but I can’t imagine the Son of God moved to another country and violated the law.
By the way, undocumented immigrants are foreign nationals living here without authorization; they are not citizens of this country; they are here illegally. The media is remiss for not using the proper term.
Immigrant: a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were not immigrants. They did not, and had no intention on living in Egypt permanently.
Illegal immigration: “the illegal entry of a person or a group of persons across a country’s border, in a way that violates the immigration laws of the destination country, with the intention to remain in the country, as well as people who remain living in another country when they do not have the legal right to do so.2“
Again, I think it’s safe to assume that they didn’t cross the border into Egypt in a way that violated immigration laws, if they even had any. They probably took the road, and the shortest one they could find.
Costs and Consequences
Risks of Crossing
The number of people who die, compared to the number of people who cross, is relatively low3, however, we can do better. The best way to do this is deterrence: get people to stop trying. While deterrence appears to have cut down on the number of people trying to make the trek, the number of deaths rose slightly, possibly because people are taking riskier routes. This should not be an argument to stop deterrence, but an argument to increase deterrence from illegal means.
Cost to the Taxpayer
Federal and State governments spend an enormous amount of money on illegal aliens when it comes to education, medical costs, justice expenditures, and welfare programs. As of 2016, FAIR estimated this cost to be $134 billion. To be fair, they also estimated that illegal aliens contributed about $18 billion, meaning that illegal immigrants cost the American taxpayer around $116 billion4. In addition, a recent estimate shows that there may be a fiscal net drain of $74,722 over the lifetime of each illegal alien5.
Cost of Enforcement
Since 1986, the federal government has spent $263 billion on immigration enforcement6, and it’s still a disaster. It is quite obvious that the current methods of deterrence are not working because people are still risking their lives, and the lives of their families, to come into this country illegally.
Crime and Prisons
Our prison system is full of illegal immigrants. 1 in 5 prisoners are aliens, and nearly 95% of those are here illegally. If my math is right, that means 19% of those incarcerated in American prisons are illegal immigrants7. Even if illegal immigrants don’t commit crimes at higher rates than native-born citizens, they shouldn’t be in our prisons because they’re aren’t supposed to be here in the first place!
The MS-13 surge that began in 2012 due to weak immigration enforcement can be directly related to the Obama administration8. MS-13 recruits members by preying on unaccompanied alien children.
Certain types of immigrants are more likely to commit violent crimes than others9. It’s a fact that many simply don’t want to accept, but even if it weren’t, it’s the government’s job to make sure that crime does not go up when allowing immigrants into the country.
Much of the discussion about immigration revolves around money, but immigrants use things other than money; they use physical resources.
We complain about a shortage of water, but we want to bring in more people? We want to have open borders. What effect do you think that would have on the water supply in the United States, especially when our border states are already suffering from severe droughts.
They will require more food, and they will produce more waste. We will need more jobs, and while the job market is growing, the jobs aren’t paying enough. So let’s bring more people in to take jobs that don’t pay enough. Is there enough housing, or will we have more tent cities going up? And we all know how safe tent cities are right?
Illegal immigration only exacerbates the issue.
Who Gets To Manage?
Immigration is a complex problem, and it’s not as simple as opening up the borders and letting everyone in. The country doesn’t have the resources to handle the influx, which is why the government needs to control the amount of people coming in, and quite frankly, it’s easier when it knows how many are coming in and can manage the growth of the country along with the growth of the population. Like it or not, the two go hand in hand.
“In Romans 13:4, Paul writes about civil government and states, “For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.10“
So, who should manage this? The states? While I certainly believe in states rights, I believe the power to determine the requirements for be a U.S. Citizen lies with the U.S. Government, just as the states get to determine the rights of state citizenship. I also believe that it is the Federal Government’s job, and responsibility, to manage immigration and it’s borders11. It’s also the law. There is nothing unjust about saying, you can come here, but we have set up rules in order to do this in an orderly fashion.
There are hundreds of thousands of people trying to legally gain asylum in the United States and the backlog runs years12. If we didn’t put so many resources into combating illegal immigration, maybe we could redirect some of that towards the legal immigrants. Opening the borders isn’t that answer, because it’s a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands who are going about the process legally.
But a country that doesn’t follow its own laws, has to be questioned when it comes to justice. A government who doesn’t enforce its own laws, is being lax in its responsibilities. How does it determine what laws to follow and which ones not to follow. It doesn’t. A just government follows all the laws, until unjust laws are changed.
The government, in my opinion, seems to be in a very just position with regards to its immigration policies considering some of the logistics I have covered. That doesn’t mean it can’t do some things better, but I believe it’s doing the best it can with the resources it has. It’s simply overwhelmed.
Let every person be loyally subject to the governing (civil) authorities. For there is no authority except from God [by His permission, His sanction], and those that exist do so by God’s appointment. Therefore he who resists and sets himself up against the authorities resists what God has appointed and arranged [in divine order]. And those who resist will bring down judgment upon themselves [receiving the penalty due them]. (Romans 13:1-2 AMP)
Christians are instructed to obey the law. It’s not your decision to decide that you’re not going to disobey just laws enacted by the government. There is nothing wrong with wanting to vet people who are coming here, and limiting the number of people that are coming here.
There’s this argument that the laws of the U.S. Government are somehow unjust, and it’s the Christian duty to oppose them, and even break them. Given the complexity of the situation, and the overwhelming numbers, I feel that they are perfectly justified in their position, more so than the previous administration who didn’t execute the law. A government that doesn’t obey its own laws isn’t a just government, it’s a tyrannical government.
It is a violation of law to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, illegal aliens. It is a violation of law to hire them.
It is also a felony to encourage or induce an alien to come to or reside in the U.S. knowing or recklessly disregarding the fact that the alien’s entry or residence is in violation of the law13.
Despite this, states, cities, churches, and individuals, continue to knowingly break the law to protect others who are breaking the law.
It is the Christian’s responsibility to obey the law.
So, where does love fit into this?
Should we treat foreigners, refugees, and sojourner’s with love? Of course! But when the Bible talks about these people, does it mean ALL of them? While I would argue yes, it’s doesn’t say that we have to open the borders and let them flood in. It certainly doesn’t say ignore the laws that you’ve decided are mean.
How does this work practically? If you’re here illegally, I’ll give you some food at the same I call the authorities, and if I don’t trust the local authorities because I fear they’ll provide sanctuary, I’ll call ICE myself.
See, that’s the thing. You have to do BOTH, and that’s what most Christians can’t seem to get a grip of. It’s one or the other, so they choose the easy way because it makes them feel good.
In conclusion, the US Government has its hands full. It’s overwhelmed by a problem that many Christians are only making worse.
The government’s control of the borders are a God given responsibility, and there’s nothing unjust about saying, you can come here, but we have set up rules in order to do this in an orderly fashion. I would argue that it’s their God given duty to do things in an orderly fashion.
There’s nothing just about contributing to lawlessness. Aiding and abetting criminals, and that is what these people are, no matter how you try to wriggle out with word play, or soften the harsh, realistic, legal language: illegal alien. There are repercussions for breaking the law, breaking statutes, breaking regulations; some harsher than others.
How can the Christian defend the immigrant who comes to this country illegally, risking their lives, and that of their families. How can a caring Christian defend them, and encourage them to continue trying.
There are over 300,000 immigrants seeking asylum in this country, and they’re doing it the legal way. Does the system need to be streamlined? Sure. Can it be made better? Of course. Maybe if we cut down on illegal immigration, we could redirect some of those funds towards streamlining the asylum process.
Christians, if we feel the laws are unjust, we need to work towards changing the law. There are processes in place for that. Christians should be model citizens. I’m confident that breaking the law, and encouraging others to break the law is not a the model God wants us to portray.
- Niles, Randall. “Out of Egypt – Jesus’ family escapes to Egypt“. Drive Thru History. Web. 2018 Aug 16. Accessed: 15 Nov 2018. ↩
- “Illegal immigration.” Wikipedia. Web. Accessed: 15 Jul 2018. ↩
- “US-Mexico border migrant deaths rose in 2017 even as crossings fell, UN says.” The Guardian. Web. 6 Feb 2018. Accessed: 15 Jul 2018. ↩
- O’Brien, Matt and Raley, Spencer. “The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers“. Federation for American Immigration Reform. Web. 27 Sep 2017. Accessed: 15 Jul 2018. ↩
- Camarota, Steven A. “The Cost of a Border Wall vs. the Cost of Illegal Immigration“. Center for Immigration Studies. Web. 15 Feb 2017. Accessed: 15 Jul 2018. ↩
- “The Cost of Immigration Enforcement and Border Security“. American Immigration Council. Web. 25 Jan 2017. Accessed: 15 Jul 2018. ↩
- “Departments of Justice and Homeland Security Release Data on Incarcerated Aliens—94 Percent of All Confirmed Aliens in DOJ Custody Are Unlawfully Present“. The United State Department of Justice. Web. 12 Dec 2017. Accessed: 15 Jul 2018. ↩
- Vaughan, Jessica M. “MS-13 Resurgence: Immigration Enforcement Needed to Take Back Our Streets“. Center for Immigration Studies. Web. 21 Feb 2018. Accessed: 15 Jul 2018. ↩
- Alkousaa, Riham. “Violent crime rises in Germany and is attributed to refugees“. Reuters. Web. 3 Jan 2018. Accessed 15 Jul 2018. ↩
- “Jesus Was Not A Refugee“. Legal Immigrants for America. Web. 28 Nov 2015. Accessed: 15 Jul 2018. ↩
- Doak, J. Alan. “What Does the Bible Say About Borders?“. Reflection on Plumb. 21 Jan 19. Web. ↩
- “Asylum in the United States“ American Immigration Council. Web. 14 May 2018. Accessed: 15 Jul 2018. ↩
- “The Law Against Hiring or Harboring Illegal Aliens“. Federation for American Immigration Reform. Web. Dec 1999. Accessed: 19 Jan 2019. ↩
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