April 1, 2006

Christ and Immigration

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 3:35 pm

Amidst all the gnashing of teeth regarding U.S. immigration, what are we as Christians to think on the issue? The secular media is full of bilious blowhards demagoguing about our broken borders. Immigration is dividing the Republican party between the hard-liners and the compromisers. Meanwhile, over a million people took to the streets.

So what does our Christian faith have to say on the subject? I can’t see any biblical or theological basis for us to do anything but welcome immigrants, legal or illegal, with open arms. Jesus commands us to care for the least of these, and to love our neighbors whether Anglo, Latino or Samaritan. The Minutemen may think that they are patriots, but they certainly aren’t acting out of a Christian faith.

Some are against liberalizing immigration on economic grounds, arguing that illegal immigration results in huge social services costs. First, the economic research on this issue shows that immigration is a financial wash. But secondly, as Christians, are we going to withhold social services based on nationality or ethnicity? Does an American citizen’s life count for more in the eyes of God than an immigrant’s? Are we arguing that the wealthiest nation on the face of the planet can’t afford, or won’t afford, to educate and provide health care to families working inside its borders?

Of course security in a post-9/11 world is a concern, even though the 9/11 hijackers entered the country legally. But a guest-worker program would solve this problem as much as a closed border, and it’s hard to argue that a 700-mile fence would be as cost-effective a security measure as securing our ports, which still hasn’t been done. I can’t help but think the security concern is a cover for the real issue — keeping “them” out.

So where are Christians in the current debate? As usual, the mainline protestants are front and center for a compassionate approach to immigration. There are some evangelical voices speaking out for just immigration reform, but others are silent:

So far, Rodriguez has been the most prominent evangelical calling on lawmakers to rethink their priorities. Many of the high-profile religious right leaders have refrained from endorsing his view, a silence Rodriguez thinks is motivated less by disagreement than by reluctance to offend GOP allies.

Perhaps I’m post-patriotic, in fact I’m sure of it, but I just can’t see that God wants us to keep our wealth to ourselves, our culture exclusively Anglo, or our ethnicity predominantly European. We have a myth of America as a City on a Hill, but that was a myth brought to America by immigrants, and Latino immigrants will only bring us closer to its realization.


  1. I tend towards the conservative on most things, but am probaby somewhat moderate on immigration. That being said, I’m curious about how you balance “love thy neighbor” with “render unto Caesar” and “submit to the ruling authorities”?

    I am with you when you say there is no difference in God’s eyes between an American and a Mexican, for instance. But I also know that Jesus did take sin seriously and breaking the law is sin. I prefer the notion of changing laws toe help people best, while at the same time not endorsing or enabling law-breaking. Like it or not, “illegal” immigration is illegal, and therefore wrong.

    Just curious about your thoughts on this.


    Comment by Ron — April 3, 2006 @ 12:47 pm

  2. I don’t believe that just because something is against the law it is therefore a sin. Was it a sin for Rosa Parks to sit in the front of the bus? Was it a sin for Dietrich Bonhoeffer to join the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler? True, Paul in one verse counsels submission to earthly rulers, and Martin Luther did too, but most Christians have believed that we are not obligated to obey immoral laws.

    So I’m more concerned about making the laws moral than about punishing those that are here in violation of our laws. It’s hard for me to see how coming to the US to work so you can send money home to your poor relatives in Mexico is against God’s will.

    Comment by Bob — April 3, 2006 @ 2:30 pm

  3. One doesn’t know whom to believe. I have been researching the shortage of labor in all levels of employment. Business says we are short handed all the way from the freight door to the IT managers office. Big agricultural entities are coming up short on tillage and harvesting operators daily. Our economy is barely getting along with the 6 million or so illegals already employed. The hospital linen service that operates near me always has a sign out for new workers. It is posted in Spanish and English. Never mind that the Mexicans that work and apply thee for the most part speak no Spanish but rather the Indian tongue of their home valley of Aztlan.

    Bless then all in Christ, and give thanks for the blessings they bring to you.

    Someone is not paying attention to the real needs of the population of this country – legal or illegal. There is a great deal of religious and political posturing that is worthy of feeling the knotted cord.

    Lantern Bearer

    Comment by Lantern Bearer — April 4, 2006 @ 11:49 am

  4. Isn’t it interesting that we have no problem sending jobs to India, that’s good for business… but don’t want them
    coming here to work, because that’s bad for business. The jobs that went to India were in demand jobs to most middle
    Americans, while washing dishes and picking strawberries are jobs middle Americans don’t want. We argue economy and
    politics but it sounds more and more like prejudice.

    Comment by Tony — April 4, 2006 @ 12:57 pm

  5. Bob –
    Thanks for your answer. I don’t think that our immigration laws are de facto immoral, but I do think we need to do a review and perhaps overhaul of them in light of modern needs, economics, human rights and national security. It’s a tough balance.

    RE: Bonhoffer and Parks, I think what they did was brave, and I respect them greatly. I’m not sure if what they did was a sin or not; I’ll wait and let God tell me later. However, I will point out that Paul never advocated assasinating Caesar, nor did Jesus say anyone should overthrow Rome. They lived under a government more oppressive than the one under which we live, and told the disciples to, in effect, deal with it and pray that things get better. The only time we can ignore a law is if it’s counter to God’s law. I don’t see our immigration laws as counter to that, and I’m interested in how you defend your belief that immigration laws are immoral based on scripture. “Love thy neighbor” doesn’t work for me as a rationale in this instance because loving someone doesn’t mean enabling them to break laws that are not clearly violations of God’s law. Thoughts?

    Comment by Ron — April 5, 2006 @ 8:26 am

  6. Bob –
    “So I’m more concerned about making the laws moral than about punishing those that are here in violation of our laws. It’s hard for me to see how coming to the US to work so you can send money home to your poor relatives in Mexico is against God’s will.”

    Sorry, didn’t address this in my last answer. I do think we should look at our immigration laws, and morality should be part of the discussion. I don’t think that working to better your family is against God’s will, but that is a separate issue of what you do to get the job in question. Work is good. Supporting your family is good. Lawbreaking to get the job…not so clearly good.

    Comment by Ron — April 5, 2006 @ 8:28 am

  7. Just thought I’d let you know this topic is also the topic over at The Foundation.
    I was also wondering if I could have your permission to link this post of your’s to the current edition of The Foundation?

    Comment by Chris — April 6, 2006 @ 5:41 am

  8. Well, here’s my question: does this extend to Muslim immigrants as well?

    I think most people are inclined to be nice to the Mexicans because they are
    at least nominally Christian.

    Comment by Tracie — April 9, 2006 @ 12:20 pm

  9. Remembering Christ’s Teachings

    Trackback by Shades of Gray — April 15, 2006 @ 10:08 am

  10. The Malaysia and Singapore Governemnt accepts foreign workers provided they are certified medically fit
    by their countries appointed doctor, with a specific monthly wages and duration of stays.

    Instead of tolally shunting the immigrant the US Government should lay down some rulings to
    controll and accept foreign workers who can earn and send home the wages to support their family.
    Later if their record is clean them they can apply their family to migrate to US.

    Example in the issuance of a multi-purposes identification card-embeded with microchip to track
    their movement. This a fair gasture for both parties on security control expecially when the receipient
    embark on the interstate travell.
    The multi-purposes ID can also provide wages transcetion, credit / banking transaction and etc.
    The Immigration Department should collect a minimum token fee as to lessen the financial burden.
    You can’t tolally shoo them off as US industries needs them to function. As their wages is low.
    In way US industries can compete or match the Chinese product.

    Comment by Derick Holms — April 26, 2006 @ 6:31 pm

  11. I think our system is just broken, and we need to fix it. We have a demand for workers in our nation, which attracts the supply of workers from Latin America (the businesses are more to blame than the workers, if we are to hand out blame for illegal acts; the workers risk their lives out of desperation to get here). But we don’t have a legal way for the workers and employers to connect. I agree with Derick Holms – let’s fix the system so that there is a legal way to welcome these workers. If we had a system that reflected the economic and human reality, then we wouldn’t need to worry so much about sealing our borders – who would take the huge risks of sneaking across the border in the desert if there was a legal way to cross a bridge?

    Comment by Eric Lemonholm — May 27, 2006 @ 10:20 am

  12. I struggle to understand why we (as Christians) believe it’s in keeping with the teachings of Christ to be patriotic. I certainly understand it in a worldly sense, but why would Christ support the artificial boundaries created not by God, but by man. It is with this in mind that I don’t understand a Christian view against any immigration.

    Comment by E. Warner — July 7, 2006 @ 5:01 am

  13. I so agree with you on this blog. God says that we should treat others as though we were them. and also he says care for the least of these.

    PLEASE keep on … you rok!

    Comment by Charity — August 30, 2006 @ 11:37 am

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