Thursday, November 29, 2018

What does the Bible say about immigration?

Over the past few years the topic of immigration has been front and center in the United States. This has left many people to wonder, especially Christians, what the Bible has to say about immigration. Is it bad to be a Christian who supports building a wall at the border of Mexico and the United States? Does the Bible encourage us to let people immigrate without any restraints? Hopefully this conversation will help us to find a balanced approach that takes all of the biblical data into consideration.

A primary instance of immigration control in the Bible is found in the story of Nehemiah. This story is about God using the man Nehemiah to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem that was destroyed by Babylon. It was standard practice in those days to build fortified structures around cities in order to prevent malicious individuals and armies from being able to enter the city and create havoc. The fact that God inspired Nehemiah to rebuild this wall provides support to the idea that God is not against a government controlling it's borders and preventing high risk individuals from entering the country. 

A primary passage that is often used to support a more lenient immigration policy is in Leviticus 19:33-34 and reads, "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." It is agreed upon by the large majority of Biblical scholars that this passage provides principle support for the fair treatment of immigrants, the issue of applying this passage to government policy on people who live outside our country is that it seems to deal primarily with an immigrant that has already been allowed entry into the country. It references the Jews residency in Egypt as an example, which was an instance in which Pharaoh allowed Joseph's family to legally move to the land of Goshen and occupy it. In other words, this passage contains little content that addresses "the process of admittance" that God recommends for immigration, and if any inferences are made they would actually point to the legal allowance of the Jews into Egypt by the government in honor of Joseph's upstanding reputation. 

So, two of the conclusions that we can come to from the Bible on the issue of immigration is that God is not opposed to controlling who is allowed to immigrate permanently to the country, but God is opposed to treating those who do legally immigrate unfairly. One of the major issues that Society needs to begin to Iron Out is how do we create an immigration process that incentivizes people to pursue legal immigration versus simply entering the country illegally. And how do we have real safeguards in place that would keep dangerous people   being able to enter the country?

If we look to the Bible as our guide for immigration policy we must remember that it was written during a time when immigrating from one country to another without the consent of that country was a very dangerous thing. On the issue of immigration we must advocate for a fair legal process of immigration. We must advocate for fair treatment of people who do legally immigrate to our country. And, we must also advocate for respect for the laws of the land and discourage illegal immigration. We need to be careful not to demonize one another over a political issue that has a lot of moving parts. At the end of the day we are called to "go into all of the Nations and preach the gospel" so as much as we would like more people to immigrate to our country we should be willing to go to them and share the gospel even more fervently.