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Toward a Christian View of Immigration
Volume 18, No. 5
by William E. Cripe, Sr.
Bill Cripe has been AIIA’s Resource Associate for Social Issues for the past eight years. He is husband to Barbara, father of their three grown children, a writer, and senior pastor of Faith Evangelical Free Church in Waterville, Maine, where he has served since 1990.
Perhaps it could even be said that God established a sort of angelic ‘border patrol,’ preventing reentry to Eden. But beyond that, is it really possible to develop a godly, Christian, view of this controversial issue?
Consider the following accounts and principles, drawn from the inspired record of the history of God’s people, that transcend both time and culture:
• Upon their release from four centuries of bondage the Lord instructs His people, saying, “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” -Old Testament Book of Leviticus 19:34.
This historical incident provides us with insight into the heart of God and His compassion for all. Because we are created in His image and likeness, it seems fitting that we be expected to imitate such godly characteristics.
In an ideal world the practice of “open borders” would seem responsible and consistent with biblical notions of benevolence, compassion, fairness and equality.
But we do not live in an ideal world. So mercifully, God ordained human governments for the very purpose of constraining evil – at the least – (cf. Romans 13) and, by implication, securing a common good.
Is it then a stretch to assert that, especially in a post 9/11 world, where evil people have an advertised goal of killing innocent citizens, that a policy of something less than an open border is not only permissible but necessary?
Does it not also follow that any sovereign political entity not having an immigration protocol is, in fact, derelict in its God-given assignment of securing the common good?
Assuming most reasonable citizens would affirm some restriction on the movement of people across borders, the question is begged: Is physical safety from individuals with evil intent the only legitimate consideration for national oversight…. or are there others?
• The so-called costs of illegal immigration are startling even if suspect.
Every analysis I considered, from health-care subsidies to the cost of education usurped by illegals ($3.9 billion annually) to the costs of incarcerating criminals ($1.5 billion annually), tends to be as questionable as the analyses of the economic benefits of “cheap labor.”
Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation calculated the benefits of illegals against the liabilities and posited a net cost to legal citizens of $397 billion in 2004. Rector says that, “Over the next ten years the total cost of low-skill households to the taxpayer (immediate benefits minus taxes paid) is likely to be at least $3.9 trillion.”
Assuming the accuracy of these figures, are these legitimate “Christian” concerns, or are they merely evidences that we tend to favor a more pragmatic view of immigration than a theological one?
As a Christian, I am responsible to emulate the compassion and benevolence of my Savior. But neither compassion nor benevolence necessarily preclude reasonable control over who and how many come into a country in any given year.
• There is a saturation aspect to what a generous country is able to do without jeopardizing its ability to continue to be generous. While this concern might typically be criticized as motivated by greed, it is not necessarily so.
I see little difference between a country equitably limiting access to a land of opportunity and an individual throwing appeals for various worthy causes into the trash. Individuals are not God and neither are countries – not even prosperous countries. There are limits to what people and countries can do.
• What seems clear is that our current immigration policy is wildly inconsistent, essentially rewarding law breakers while encumbering the obedient. This would therefore seem to be a good starting point for an “informed Christian” policy.
And while admitting that a national charity is virtuous, benevolence (by definition) cannot be imposed through coercive means. Otherwise it ceases to be benevolence. The removal of personal freedom to share one’s resources with the less fortunate is nothing more than good-natured extortion, distorting the very nature of a benevolent God. For the Christian, that is also unacceptable.