Continuing the Series:
Illegal immigration and how to handle it has been a hot issue for some time. We have learned from the mistake of the Reagan administration that amnesty does not work. Despite this, progressives still continue to push this as a solution to the problem. Another issue is the refusal of authorities at both the national and local level to enforce the law. Many people do not think to look to the Bible for guidance on this issue, and some that do take the Bible out of context to support their position. But the fact remains that the Bible does give significant guidance on the issue.
I understand there is a larger range of positions within the two major parties on illegal immigration, but for generalization purposes the Republican Party generally stands for more secure borders and is against amnesty. They do not support governmental social services for non-citizens. The Democratic Party holds positions on the opposite side of the spectrum. Some may argue that they do not support amnesty, but the policies they implement and the statements they make prove otherwise (as the examples I show later will highlight). Some also see a lot of gray here when it comes to Biblical principle, but there is a lot of black and white where Obama and progressives like him fall short. Specifically, Obama contradicts Biblical teaching on the issue of rule of law and on the issue of civil government’s responsibility for the welfare of its citizens. That is my bottom line.
The format of this post will be a little different that the others. The reason is the following: (1) I had already written some of this a long while back and it is just in a different format (2) the subject needs some understanding of the original Biblical text and contemporary history (3) I believe there is more misuse of scripture on this issue than not using scripture at all. For reference, I have used James Hoffmeier’s The Immigration Crisis, Immigrants, Aliens, and the Bible, and Wayne Grudem’s Politics According to the Bible in addition to the Bible itself. Here we go…
In this debate, progressives always try to claim the moral high ground. As usually is the case, it is more than just simply selective use of Christian principles. It is the manipulation of these principles to justify their position. A position that is not necessarily Biblical. As William Lane Craig mentioned in one of his books, it is not only traditional education that is lacking, it is also occurring with Biblical education. Unfortunately because of this, politicians and other leaders (even within the Church), are taking advantage of this to promote political philosophies and agendas. Some are doing it on purpose and some are doing it because they themselves honestly have a misunderstanding of what the Bible really says. This is certainly a problem. There is a surprising amount of information about immigration in the Bible and I believe if we take an honest look at what it says, we can take much of the heated partisan rhetoric out of the debate and come up with a workable solution. We may also find where people’s allegiance truly lies; with the Bible or with a political ideology.
Despite what we may think, immigration is not a problem that has snuck up on us here in the last 30-40 years. Immigration existed in Biblical times and the Bible itself gives us ideas on how we can and should handle it. The first point that I think is important is that borders of countries (and even borders of privately owned property) were very well defined during Biblical times. A few examples in the Bible are the defined borders of Canaan (Exodus 16:35), Egypt (1 Kings 4:21 and 2 Chronicles 9:26 ; 26:8) and Israel (Joshua 13-19). A second important point is that these borders were protected and controlled by these countries according to archeological records. Examples include evidence of Shu-Sin, King of Ur, building a series of forts and walls to protect his country from uncontrolled infiltration of Amorites; Egyption Pharaoh Amenemhet (1961 – 1943 BC) built the Walls of the Ruler to keep out Bedouins, and even a tomb scene from the sixth year of Pharaoh Senusert II (1862 BC) shows some type of work visa for workers to enter the country. The third and final point I would like to make is that not only does the Bible support the fact that borders were controlled, but it shows that early Biblical figures in the Old Testament obeyed the rules of these countries. The most obvious example is the story of the Exodus. Moses and the Israelites asked for permission to use the King’s Highway controlled by the country of Edom. Edom refused to allow the Israelites to enter their country despite Moses offering to pay for any resources they used (Numbers 20:16-21). This shows that Edom had to right to determine who it would let into its country and it also shows that the Israelites honored their wishes by not entering their borders. Another example would be before Moses with the story of Joseph in Egypt. Joseph, an alien resident, rose to a high level in the Egyptian government; second to only Pharaoh. Despite this, Joseph still asks for permission from Pharaoh for his family to immigrate to Egypt because the members of his family were still foreigners and had no special status just because Joseph had become a legal resident. (Genesis 46-47). This is a pattern you see throughout the Old Testament.
Assimilation into new culture
“U.S. English is to Hispanics as the Ku Klux Klan is to Blacks” -Raul Yzaguirre
“I want the third generation, the seventh generation, I want them all to think Mexico first.” – Juan Hernandez
The two comments above are from two immigrant leaders who obviously are advocating the lack of assimilation into United States culture. And these are not even the worst comments I have heard from such groups. While I do not believe that Obama supports such statements directly, the reality is that he gives and receives support from these organizations. His policies are their policies. This is an obvious problem. When you make the decision, whatever the reason may be, to become a legal resident of another country, it is your responsibility to assimilate into that culture if you wish to succeed. Your loyalty should lie with this country and you should abide by its laws. It is certainly not the responsibility of the host country to assimilate to your culture. That being said, there is no problem with a country requiring an Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance. Believe it or not, immigrant advocates have actually called for the dropping of such a requirement. As alluded to in the first section, there is no such thing as a ‘right’ to be allowed status as a permanent resident of a country that you decide to move to. This idea of assimilation into another culture has Biblical roots.
The story of Joseph in Egypt is a great example of this concept. Joseph, a Hebrew, made his way to Egypt because he was sold into slavery. He assimilated into the Egyptian culture so much that he was eventually promoted to the position of ‘Prime Minister’. He mastered the Egyptian language so well that his own brothers did not recognize him as he spoke to them through a translator (Genesis 42:23). When his father, Jacob, died he had his body mummified (an Egyptian practice) and he himself was mummified when he died (Genesis 50:26). The point here is not that someone should forget their heritage, but rather assimilating into another country and following their customs and laws does not necessarily infringe upon God’s arena. This is a point Jesus later makes in the New Testament. Although a small point, it is an important one. If you desire to become a permanent resident of a new country, you should want to assimilate as much as possible so you can contribute and be successful.
In the Bible this principle is applied even when someone’s residence in another country is not voluntary. The prophet Jeremiah writes a letter to the Jewish people in captivity telling them to be productive, to seek the peace and prosperity of the city where they were exiled and pray to the Lord for this end. (Jeremiah 29:1-7). We also have the example of Daniel while in Babylonian exile (Daniel).
The Hebrew words used for Alien
“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21)
“You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”(Exodus 23:9)
“Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19)
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong” (Leviticus 19:33)
The above verses are often used by liberal Christians, Christian groups, and politicians to support their positions on sanctuary cities, refusal to enforce immigration laws, and amnesty for illegal immigrants; the last verse specifically used by the group Sojourners. There is a problem with using these verses without understanding the Hebrew behind them. The real question is this – Does the Hebrew word translated as Sojourner (or Stranger or Alien in some versions) mean any foreigner or something more specific.
According to Old Testament scholar James Hoffmeier, the Hebrew word used in these verses is “ger” or “gerim”, which does not mean any foreigner, but rather a resident alien. Someone who is in a country with some sort of permanent legal status. Other Hebrew words, nekhar and zar, are used in other Old Testament verses to describe people that are simply foreigners. Some of these verses include Exodus 23:12, Exodus 30:33, Deuteronomy 1:16, Deuteronomy 14:21, Isaiah 1:7, Isaiah 28:21, Obad 11, and Lamentations 5:2. In these verses the word is used to describe foreigners in the context of everything from an invading enemy to squatters who moved into Israel during the exile. Unfortunately, some Bible translations do not differentiate between these Hebrew verbs when they translate them, which can cause some problems. I believe that this leads some to use the verses out of context. Others I believe understand the context and still choose to use them because their allegiance lies with their agenda and not the true meaning of the Bible. Some could call it natural human stubbornness…something I am never guilty of (sarcasm oozing).
The Mosaic Laws and Aliens
The Mosaic Law contained many references to the sojourner or alien, such as is found in the verses listed in the last section. In these verses the Hebrew word “ger” is used to describe the Hebrew people in Egypt. The reason this word is used is because these Hebrews were decedents of Jacob and his son Joseph. Before they were unjustly enslaved by the Egyptians, they were living freely in Egypt as permanent legal residents. A status given to them by Pharaoh himself. This gives credence to the meaning of the Hebrew word “ger” and also explains why the treatment of resident aliens was referenced so many times in the Mosaic Law. God wanted to ensure the Israelites did not treat resident aliens living within their borders the same as they had been treated by the Egyptians.
This was important because there were other Egyptians that left with the Israelites during the Exodus that would live with them and there would be others that would become part of their culture and live within their borders in the future. This is an example for us to follow. Anyone in our country legally as a resident alien should be treated the same as someone born here, with the rights and benefits that their status gives them.
Sanctuary Cities and their Misuse
Cities such as San Francisco, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, New Haven and here locally Houston have declared themselves to be sanctuary cities. This means that they will not cooperate or assist in the deportation of illegal immigrants; essentially they are refusing to enforce the laws of the land. This also means, at least here in Texas, that they will not allow law enforcement officials to inquire the legal status of people when they are arrested for crimes. If this seems like a bad idea, that is because it is. Especially for those like the Salter family or the Wilkerson family. The first the family of Houston Police Officer Rick Salter, the second the family of Pearland High School Student Josh Wilkerson; both killed by illegal immigrants who had previous offenses. Or take your pick from some other victims.
But these cities claim the moral high ground for their sanctuary city status. The concept of a sanctuary city is based off of an Old Testament principle, but as you can imagine, it is not being applied properly in this case. This principle is explained in Exodus 21:12-14, Numbers 35:11-15, Numbers 35:22-29, and Joshua 20:1-9. The purpose of the sanctuary city was this: If someone accidentally killed someone they were to flee to one of the designated sanctuary cities. This city was to protect this person from any form of revenge from the victim’s family. The city elders were to also hear the man’s case and give a judgment. These things are already practiced in modern American law as this is nothing more than moving a trial location to ensure a fair trial.
No where does this principle advocate using sanctuary cities to avoid the enforcement of the law. Unfortunately cities are not the only ones practicing this principle inappropriately. Churches do it as well. Hoffmeier mentions one of these examples in his book. He describes how Chicago’s United Methodist Church Reverend Walter Coleman gave sanctuary to a woman and her son after a judge ordered her deportation and called it “Devine Protection”. He also condemned American Immigration Laws on his church’s website. Only one circumstance allows for disobedience to a country’s laws and disagreement of our current immigration laws does not fit into this category. As seen in earlier sections, nothing in the Bible prohibits a nation from controlling its borders and creating laws controlling who enters.
New Testament teaching on government
The new immigration law in Arizona and similar laws in other states simply call for the enforcement of federal laws by local authorities. The same goes for Texas legislation that would have prevented its local governments from acting as sanctuary cities. The federal laws simply provide a legal process for outsiders to come to our country on a permanent basis. As we have discussed before every country has the right to determine who may enter and who may not by whatever criteria they deem fit. I hardly call these efforts and/or legislation extreme or oppressive.
Yet the leadership of the above church decided to not follow the law of the land. The week leading up to the MLB all-star game Reverend Jesse Jackson called on Major League baseball players to speak out against the Arizona legislation; legislation that essentially called for the enforcement of the law. State Representative Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) said the Texas legislation to prevent sanctuary cities (to enforce the law) was “bad for Texas”. She also said “that it’s almost inhumane”. Recently Senator Dick Durbin’s (Democrat–Illinois) brought 200 illegal immigrants to the Capitol to push his own amnesty legislation.
This is a serious problem. Not only do we have immigrant special interest groups and church leaders advocating breaking United States law, we have our own elected representatives doing the same. Both sides will use New Testament teaching to try to justify their position. But here is what the New Testament says governments, their laws, and what the people should do.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1)
In this verse Paul is really just reiterating what Jesus said to Pontius Pilate when he said “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above…” (John 19:11)
That and we are to follow the laws of our country, even if we do not agree with some of them. Jesus further made the point that following the laws of human institutions does not necessarily mean you are in conflict with God’s law when he told the Jewish leaders “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25). This was in response to their questioning on whether or not they should pay taxes to Caesar.
Only one circumstance warrants disobedience to the law according to the Bible, and that is if the law conflicts with God’s law. This is evident when the apostles refused to stop teaching about Jesus when the government tried to stop them (Acts 4:19-20). Another example is when the wise men do not report back to Herod about Jesus because Herod’s intentions were to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:12). An Old Testament example would be when the midwives ignored Pharaoh’s order to kill all male babies that were born (Exodus 1:15-16). Modern examples could be the government forcing someone to perform a marriage ceremony for a homosexual couple or forcing a doctor to perform abortion services because those clearly conflict with God’s law. Many immigration advocates try to invoke Acts 4 for refusing to adhere to immigration laws, but following the laws to legally enter a country is not in conflict with God’s law.
Another passage that is used by immigrant advocates is Mathew 25:31-46. In verse 40 Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”. Jesus was referencing his disciples and their efforts to spread the gospel, but some people try to take it out of context and apply it to all humanity. Others in our own immigration debate try to apply it to all Hispanic Christians. In my view this is also a poor application of God’s word. The first reason is that it is taking the Word out of context as I mentioned before. The second being we cannot disregard God’s teaching on government in Romans 13 because we are Christian or the immigrant is Christian. Because of our Christian faith we should actually be following these laws and entering the country legally in the first place as they do not conflict with God’s law.
A third argument used is the numerous New Testament calls to help those in need. While this is a worthwhile endeavor that all Christians should strive to do, once again this is no reason to disregard Romans 13. Somehow there is the impression that the only way to help these people (who all are in need?) is just to allow all of them into our country as permanent residents; regardless of their condition or benefit to our society. But are our immigration laws really preventing Christians from helping those in need? Not at all. You can help by going to these countries or giving to Christian organizations that do. Or by giving to organizations that work to improve the economic policies and conditions of said country.
Now some may be taken back by me saying “regardless of their condition or benefit to our society”, but if you look back at Romans 13:4 or 1 Peter 2:13-14 you will understand the reasoning behind this statement. In these verses it says that the government is to work for the good of its citizens. A government’s primary concern is the welfare of its citizens, not for those who wish to become citizens, and especially not for those who have come here illegally. Immigration policy should control the border and who enters our country to bring in those who would benefit our society and keep out those who would drain resources that could be directed towards our current citizens who are already in need. It is also the obligation of our government to keep out criminal elements from the outside that only bring crime to our streets and clog up our justice system. With regards to these obligations, our government is currently failing us and shows no willingness to correct the problem. They are not fulfilling their Biblical purpose and that is indeed a serious problem.
But the good news is that we live in a free country and the immigration laws and processes can be improved (as everything can always be improved). During this process though I think Christians on both sides need to truly look at the Bible instead of their political agenda. These laws should put our citizens and legal residents first, not those here illegally. Resident status in this country is not a right. Second, we must remember that all people are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26) so we should treat everyone, regardless of status, with dignity and respect. But, of course, in this we must remember that deporting someone who has entered this country illegally does not violate this principle.
The Obama Record
Obama’s position on this issue does not fall in line with Biblical teaching. Instead of using the Bible for guidance, he often uses this issue to try to score political points with his extreme left base. He feels that by courting this group, he will get a majority of the Latino vote, which unfortunately was the case in the last election. We can start with his record while a U.S. Senator. Here are a few items from On the Issues.
- Obama voted YES on continuing federal funds for declared “sanctuary cities”. This policy rewards cities for not enforcing the law and leads to criminals not being deported.
- Obama voted YES on allowing illegal immigrants to receive Social Security benefits.
- Obama co-sponsored legislation that would provide funding for social services for non-citizens
- Obama was rated 8% by the USBC, an organization that is dedicated to ending illegal immigration by securing our nation’s borders and reforming our immigration policies.
These few examples show that not only was Obama an advocate of not enforcing the laws of this country, but he was willing to put the welfare of illegal aliens above those of its lawful citizens. This is especially relevant with the poor state of the economy and these support systems. As I usually do, I would like to point out a few appointments of the President to further illustrate his position on this issue. In this case, appointments in the Department of Justice are especially important.
- Obama appointed Eric Holder as Attorney General. For many reasons Mr. Holder was not a good choice for this position. In my initial response to his appointment I actually did not mention anything about immigration. But I obviously should have as my next points will show.
- If you have followed the atrocity that is the Black Panther Case, then perhaps you have heard of Obama appointee Thomas Perez, the assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Prior to his nomination to Justice, Perez served as the president of Casa de Maryland, an extreme advocacy organization that opposes enforcement of our immigration laws. At the bottom of this article you can read a list of truly frightening actions of this group. No wonder the civil rights division of Obama’s DOJ is so lawless. Of course Perez is just one example. If you would like to read more about the extreme positions held by those hired by the Obama administration you can read this article and the links within.
- Just because he was local, I will throw in Harold Hurtt. Obama appointed this former Houston and Phoenix Police Chief to coordinate state and local activities for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The problem is that Hurtt is an outspoken critic of enforcing immigration laws and refused to do so as police chief of two major cities. See his record.
Considering his past record and his appointments to key positions, it should come as no surprise that this administration has not only refused to enforce the law, but they have actively gone after states that are either trying to enforce immigration laws or are creating laws to protect the welfare of their citizens. Here is a small sample:
- The now infamous Sheriff Joe has been investigated numerous times for enforcing immigration laws
- ICE director John Morton relaxes deportation rules. Not only is this blatant disregard for our laws, this was done by a bureaucrat without the approval of Congress.
- There has been a continued push for the DREAM Act by President Obama that is essentially amnesty. The legislation is so bad that he could not get it passed when Democrats had a super majority.
- Holder’s DOJ sued the state of Florida for trying to purge illegal voters from its roles. It did this while at the same time refusing Florida access to a federal database that would help them certify those that should or should not be on the roles.
- Texas was one of several states that passed voter ID laws during the last session. Texas is also one of several states that have had their laws blocked by Obama’s DOJ. This despite the fact that the Texas law was based upon an Indiana law that was upheld by the Supreme Court. The administration has used some pretty extreme arguments to try to cover their true intent in these cases.
- Another infamous law is the Arizona Immigration law. The Obama administration came out in full force against this law. Most revealing was that Eric Holder publicly criticized the law and then had to admit later that he had not actually read it. All the law requested was that those who are caught breaking the law have their citizenship checked if there is a suspension they are not a citizen. When the Supreme Court upheld the law, the Obama administration said they would not cooperate with local law enforcement.
- The last straw was just a few months ago when Obama unilaterally announced that he would grant amnesty to illegals through his executive power. There are many issues with this, both Biblical and legal. First, he bypassed Congress, which makes his actions unconstitutional. Secondly, his policy stance of granting amnesty in no way helps the welfare of the citizens of this country. One of the most obvious is the fact that unemployment is still high, which is the point of this article. The article does not tackle issues such as students competing for scholarships and grants…as well as admission. Here is one of the better articles I have seen on Obama’s immigration policy and it is real short for those with ADD. Its author is from the Federation for American Immigration Reform. If you check out their website right now, one of their headlines is that the DNC had a known illegal alien address the convention.
That last comment should open your eyes. Considering the economic conditions that currently exist in this country, why would they give an illegal alien the opportunity to address a national convention? Is their priority the welfare of the citizens of this country or those that have come to this country illegally? For a Christian, it is a serious question grounded in Biblical teaching. I believe it is obvious that President Obama has chosen political power and agenda over his Christian beliefs. And this is not the only area where he has chosen to do so.