Recently, George W. Bush, the president of the United States, addressed the country on the topic of illegal immigration. It’s time. According to a recent Gallup poll (April 7-9, 2006),
- 81% of Americans believe that illegal immigration is “out of control.”
- 96% believe that controlling U.S. borders to halt the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. is important.
- 48% think building a wall along our border is a good idea.
- 60% think we should deny illegal immigrants access to schools and hospitals.
- 81% say we should significantly increase the number of officers patrolling our borders.
- 84% want to institute tough penalties for businesses who employ illegals.
The president has authorized the use of the National Guard to secure the border with Mexico. While the president has many critics on this issue, even in his own party, his administration has not been inert in responding to illegal immigration. According to the White House,
- Since President Bush took office, funding for border security has increased by 66 percent.
- The Border Patrol has expanded to more than 12,000 agents, an increase of more than 2,700 agents, or nearly 30 percent. The president’s FY07 budget funds another 1,500 new agents.
- Agents are being provided with cutting-edge technology like infrared cameras, advanced motion sensors, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Protective infrastructure, such as vehicle barriers and fencing in urban areas, is being installed. Manpower, technology, and infrastructure are being integrated in more coordinated ways than ever before.
- Since President Bush took office, agents have apprehended and sent home more than 6 million people entering the country illegally, including more than 400,000 with criminal records.
- More than 600,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended through the Arizona Border Control Initiative last year, an increase of more than 50 percent since the previous year.
As a citizen, I am intensely interested in the immigration debate. I have spoken directly to my representatives at both the state and federal levels about my concern for this issue and its resolution. However, I am first and foremost a Christian. Amid public policy debate and angry public demonstration, I want to know what God has to say about this topic. My premise, starting with what I know of the Bible, is that illegal immigration is unbiblical. I’ll defend that statement in a moment. Not all followers of Christ, however, would hold to my position. Consider the well-meaning words of one commentator:
But for us who are Christians, how do we live out a Christ-like response to illegal immigration? The Lord Jesus was an immigrant Himself in the land of Egypt. He was poor and an alien in that land, just like many of the illegal immigrants here in America. His family fled harsh conditions just as many immigrants here have. God raises up and takes down governments at His sovereign will, so who are we to say that our secure borders trump the compassion we should have for the immigrant family who is just trying to live life to its fullest here in America?
When we Christians move beyond numbers and start viewing each immigrant or immigrant family as people to whom we should be ministering the love of Christ in our own land, a love that transcends earthly laws and aspires to the greatest commandments Jesus cited (love God, love people), then the issue becomes less clear. Does not the love of God for these people render our desire for legal retribution against them null and void? When you actually talk to illegals here and listen to their plight, our commonality as men for whom Jesus died makes that phone call to INS impossible to make.
Isn’t compassion a chief component of a righteous life? Is not the act of loving our neighbor the second great commandment of God? Certainly, Christians should owe no man anything but to love one another, right? Doesn’t love cover a multitude of sins?
Such questions make this issue a bit more complex than some might originally think. However, here is what I know for sure:
- The Church consists of people of every race, tribe, tongue and nation. Some of those illegal immigrants are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Consequently, I have an obligation to them. I need to help bear their burdens.
- God specifically instituted human government to do two things: to reward righteousness and to punish unrighteousness. I also have an obligation to government.
- As a Christian and citizen of God’s kingdom, I have an obligation to assist those in need. I am called on to give to those who ask of me. I must love my enemies. If someone asks me to walk a mile with him, I should walk two. I am obligated to assist widows and orphans. I have an obligation to the poor, the destitute.
The immigration dilemma exists because we confuse the roles of individual, church, and government as God intended. John Kerry, when running for president in 2004, made the following statement:
The scriptures say, what does it profit, my brother, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?
The problem is, the solution to the real problems in America, according to John Kerry and many other politicians, is to take the taxes of citizens and to force them to meet the needs of the poor and destitute. Such a forced redistribution of wealth is nothing other than socialism plain and simple. The government does not have an obligation nor should it assume the responsibility of taking care of the poor and destitute. That responsibility has been given to the church and to individuals.
What the government should be doing is punishing lawbreakers. We have a legal process of immigration in the United States. When people bypass that process and enter our country illegally, the government has a biblical responsibility to punish those people. They should be deported. When businesses reward illegal immigrants by offering them jobs, the government should step in and fulfill its biblical responsibility by punishing those businesses.
In order to enforce its laws, steps are required beyond deportation. The borders of our country must be secured. The president is fully within his biblical duties to send National Guard troops to aid in securing the border. Erecting a fence or wall along the border would also be helpful in the enforcing of our nation’s immigration laws. America does not need a closed border. Our laws permit immigration. However, America does need a secure border if our government is going to enforce its laws,to punish lawbreakers, and to reward those who have entered our country legally.
What is the Christian’s responsibility to those who break the law, whether they be Christians or not? I believe we have an obligation to help those in need. If an illegal immigrant comes to our doorstep, we should clothe him and feed him and shelter him and share the Gospel with him … and report him to the authorities. In our country, having knowledge of an illegal activity and refusing to do anything about it makes us complicit in the crime. We have an obligation as citizens to report illegal activity, whether it be through persons or businesses. Yet we still love, we still help, and we still represent Christ.
The Church should also be convicted of her dereliction of duty. Part of the reason government has assumed so much responsibility in taking care of the poor is because the church has not. The government is wrongfully taking our tax money and forcing us to do what we should be doing willingly. The Church has become so fearful of the “social Gospel” that it has turned aside from doing anything productive in society. Now, to be sure, many churches have simply replaced the Gospel with good deed doing—that’s unacceptable. And so is simply preaching the Gospel without living it. Both are essential, and the Church must rise to the challenge if she is to model her Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. His life provides a sterling example of how we can and must live the Gospel of the Kingdom as we preach it to every creature.