Comments 7

  1. The main concern I have with immigration is illegal entry into the country, which you touched on briefly. If a person is intent on living in America and enjoying the numerous freedoms and blessings we enjoy, why should they not be expected to uphold the laws of the land? Why should immigrants not follow protocol of obtaining citizenship? It insures a commitment and identity with the USA. Are we the only country which require visas and naturalization?

    1. Canadians and Latin Americans are “Americans” too. 🙂

      Nothing in this article address your questions, but nothing in it suggests the law should not apply to immigrants. It does indicate a biblical stance of generosity and kindness that might focus on the normal human needs of all resident foreign people. This population is composed of almost 50% legal, naturalized citizens. (See Should the rest be treated less generously? Before responding to a person’s needs, should we try to find out of they are following the law to our satisfaction? says the undocumented immigrant population in the US is about 3-4% of the total population (but over 5% of the labor force) and that proportion has been stable. Nearly all of the documented and undocumented immigrants say they would like to become citizens but face many barriers. Even if they have the knowledge and money to begin the process, it usually takes a very long time — up to 25 years. Maybe we should help them with this?

    2. Sharon, I think you raise some very reasonable questions. I didn’t have space to address policy responses or the unique challenge of how to respond to immigrants whose presence is not lawful in the U.S., but my primary point in this piece is that, while those distinctions are important for the government, I believe the Church’s role is to focus on sharing the love of Christ and the hope of the gospel–which we can do while fully complying with the law (no law, at present, would require a pastor or other church member to report someone whom they suspect of being unlawfully present).

      In terms of public policies, my attitude toward this question used to be, “those people just need to go back and come the legal way.” But when I became a legal counselor, I learned that the legal options for migration are dramatically limited, such that for many individuals who wish to migrate, there is no legal option, no matter how long they would be willing to wait or how much money they would be willing to pay (for a brief explanation of the legal system and its history, see If they manage to come unlawfully, though, they very quickly find work in most cases, which to me suggests that our legal system, most of which was written in 1965, is out of touch with the needs of our labor markets. Rather than adjusting our immigration system to match those labor needs, for decades our country has looked the other way as individuals entered unlawfully or overstayed visa, leading to an erosion of the rule of law.

      To address this, I’ve joined many Christian organizations in advocating for Comprehensive Immigration Reforms that would do three basic things:

      1) Make it harder to immigrate illegally, by improving border security and systems for ensuring that temporary visa conditions are followed (in response to Judy’s comment below: no, I do not advocate open borders)

      2) Make it easier to immigration legally–not without limit, but to meet the needs of our labor markets, to ensure that immediate families can be kept unified, and to continue our country’s honorable tradition as a place of refuge for those fleeing persecution

      3) Establish a process by which those who are present unlawfully could pay a fine (which I believe would distinguish this policy from amnesty), then, if they can pass a criminal background check, be granted a temporary legal status. With that status, they could earn permanent legal status and, eventually, citizenship if they can show they are paying taxes, avoiding criminal problems, and meeting other conditions over a period of several years.

      The larger point of my piece here, though, is that I believe many Christians have only thought about immigration as a political issue, and in some cases have quickly associated all immigrants with those who have entered unlawfully, even though in reality they represent less than 20% of all immigrants in the U.S. (an additional percentage are undocumented because they overstayed a valid visa). The polling I cited asked evangelical Christians about their views of immigrants, without any reference to their legal status, and yet the responses were still significantly negative. And my concern is that a knee-jerk negative response to immigrants is simply not consistent with the view of immigrants given to us repeatedly in Scripture, and it creates a barrier to us seizing the missional opportunity the immigration presents to the Church in the U.S.

      1. Thank you for that explanation. I would love to see immigration reform that would allow laws in place to be upheld and that would contribute to returning to a state of lawfulness instead of what I feel is present now: chaos. I am happy to belong to a church family that has worked with world relief. It has been a blessing for me. I also want our country to be safer against the bad apples that come here without intent to assimilate to our laws. Thank you for this written piece and your reply to the above question.

  2. Very interesting article and I agree with the comments of Sharon Moss above. You make no distinction between immigrants who have followed the law to come here and those who are here illegally. We are a country of laws and people who break the law should not be rewarded. If you do not agree with the law or think it should be changed there is a process to follow. Do you think the answer is open boarders?
    I will welcome immigrants with open arms if they are here legally.

    1. Before helping anyone who has obvious needs, do you ask them to prove they are citizens? If not a child, why not an adult? If not a person who looks “American” to you, why not someone who doesn’t? We are note INS employees first and Christians second, right?

      Do you think Jesus would make a distinction between “legal” and “illegal” people who are “deserving” and “undeserving?” Would he see it as “rewarding” people to show them grace and love? This suggests they must merit it, and that is utterly opposed to his gospel.

      Prostitution was unlawful and shameful in his society as it is in ours, yet Jesus did not condemn them and focuses his time and compassion on all the marginal and despised people of his time.

      My ancestors did not come to the US “legally;” they took land from native Americans who they conveniently decided had no souls, no rights, and no legal protection. And then they created a forced labor supply from African slaves. The rights and privileges I now enjoy motivate me to want to extend them to others since I do not “deserve” them and my ancestors certainly did not.

  3. Did Jesus welcome and love sinners and lawbreakers? Did God tell his people to welcome the stranger and the alien if and only if they were following the law? Why should we be legalistic about showing love to God’s children?

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