Applying Christian Foundations to Thinking about Immigration

Summary

Immigration is a contentious issue in the United States, with the mainstream media dedicating considerable time to reporting about building walls, sanctuary cities, and deportation of undocumented immigrants. The Biblical perspective should allow Christians to have a more empathetic view of immigrants’ vulnerable individuals. Foreigners deserve to be treated with respect, courtesy, and charity because of human goodwill. Every person is created in the image of God, therefore qualifying them as neighbors regardless of their nation of origin.

Leaders are chosen to serve people in need, whether native or immigrant. While God created the concept of nations, it is vital to uphold biblical principles while implementing immigration laws. Integrating migrants does not end with allowing them into society. Direct efforts to help them may include sponsoring legislation that limits licensing bureaucracies that unfairly target immigrants, introducing vocational training to help immigrants set their businesses, and providing education and social services.

Citizenship

North America has become the home of nations. That is the reality that Christian have to live with today. Immigration is a contentious issue in the United States, with the mainstream media dedicating considerable time to reporting about building walls, sanctuary cities, and deportation of undocumented immigrants. Each source provides its polarizing perspective on immigration reforms, often vilifying individuals or groups who oppose their views. Religion pertains to individuals’ inner lives, i.e., their attitudes or spiritual orientations and beliefs about God (West, 1988). Therefore, Christians need to distinguish between religion and government when tackling the issue of immigration.

Lost in the contentious debates are the debate objects; individuals referred to and immigrants, foreigners, or illegals. It is essential to note that these are human beings created in the image of God. Most of the people that seek refuge in the country are not drug smuggling and gun-toting criminals but children of God trying to support their relatives and family. Christians must resist viewing immigration from their nationalistic identities or their favorite political parties’ stand on immigration. The protection of undocumented children is vital in immigration reforms (Lagon & McCormick, 2014). Christians must uphold the values of compassion and love while dealing with the immigration question.

Christians should first look at the Bible as a reference point for understanding immigration. However, this suggestion does not mean that Christians should neither be proud of being Americans nor participate in political debate. The fact is that Christians have to honor God and his teachings about brotherliness and love. The Church should be a haven where immigrants feel loved and welcome. The same welcoming attitudes should be reflected in schools by teaching children about the essence of caring for their neighbors regardless of their ethnic origin or religious affiliations.

The Bible provides an essential perspective of immigration from the book of genesis. God made a covenant with Abraham (Gen 12, 15), promising him offspring, blessing, and land. The land promise forces Abraham, together with his descendants, to embark on a migration journey to the promises land (n). In Deuteronomy 10:18, the law provided equal treatment for all persons, whether immigrant or native. The Israelites were to love immigrants as much as they loved the vulnerable, including the widows and the fatherless. Additionally, in Leviticus 19:34, the la guaranteed strangers the same protections as the Israelites. Therefore, God demonstrates the importance of loving for strangers among Christians from the early days.

While Christians may not directly relate to Israel’s nation, love and care for immigrants are universal principles among all believers. Both Mathew 22 and Leviticus 19 emphasize the love of neighbors. In this regard, an undocumented person, or an immigrant in the United States or globally, is a neighbor (Evangelical Immigration Table, 2019). This Biblical perspective should allow Christians to have a more empathetic view of immigrants’ vulnerable individuals. The Church should view immigrants as individuals in need of redemption and fellow sisters and brother in Christ.

Peter weighs into the immigration debate by reminding readers regarding their present reality, calling them “elect immigrants” (1:1). In (2:11), Peter calls his readers sojourners and immigrants. These terms refer to individuals who live in foreign lands, either by their volition or by force. Peter is keen to help Christians to understand that Christians reside as immigrants in the present world, awaiting to enter where their citizenship lives. Christians are citizens where Jesus rules as king. Therefore, the Church should resist selfish anti-immigration attitudes that are short-term interests.

St. Thomas Aquinas holds that Christians have a twofold relationship with foreigners; hostile and peaceful. In directing both relations, the law has suitable provisions to guide how Christians should act. In asserting this affirmation, St Thomas portends that immigrants are dissimilar. In defending societies, nations can restrict criminal elements, enemies, and traitors from entering a country and causing harm to the citizens (Enrique, 2020). Furthermore, he suggests that the law directs how governments deal with immigration in both the hostile and beneficial elements that characterize immigration.

According to St Thomas, the Israelites were offered opportunities to existing peacefully with foreigners. He acknowledges the fact that other people will want to visit foreign nations and even stay. Foreigners deserve to be treated with respect, courtesy, and charity because of human goodwill (Enrique, 2020). In such cases, the law should protect immigrants from being mistreated. Just like the Israelites welcomed strangers into their lands and took care of them, modern Christian societies should advance the same principles of brotherly love, considering that all humans are God’s creation.

Integration is a vital process in the immigration process. St. Thomas recognizes that some foreigners will want to become citizens of their host county. The first step of facilitating this transition is integrating these individuals into the host community’s culture and life. However, the integration process takes time as individuals adapt to the characteristics of the new societies. This assertion is not only politically correct but also logical. Intercultural conflict is the primary cause of resentment about immigration among natives. Comprehensive cultural integration processes allow individuals to be well-placed to the rules and regulations in their host communities, thus reducing the possibility of conflicts.

Stewardship

In discussions about immigration in the United States, individuals are likely to say America is a nation of immigrants. This statement intends to end the debate on immigration and who qualifies as an American. Therefore, the question that arises is how could a nation of immigrants be reluctant to welcome immigrants. However, this statement conceals essential facets that enable the understanding of immigration in the United States. Few countries globally are populated by descendants of their native inhabitants. In reality, the history of humanity has mostly to do with immigration.

The United States is not the only country that is characterized by immigration. Other countries, including Brazil, Australia, Canada, and Argentina, have been built around immigrants. Additionally, western European countries find themselves homes to large numbers of immigrants, for example, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Therefore, immigration is a global phenomenon and not isolated to the United States. In terms of stewardship, the boundary about who receives services should reflect the nation’s identity as a country of immigrants. Therefore, every person in America has the right to receive essential services.

Jesus highlights the importance of flexibility in understanding who qualified to be a neighbor. Jesus asserts that a neighbor is any person in need. Every person is created in the image of God, therefore allowing them as neighbors. Leaders are chosen to serve people in need, whether native or immigrant. Thus, a person’s nationality does not influence whether a person will receive essential social services that make it possible to live decently. Jesus exhibited this example by serving every person in need, Jew or Gentile, poor or rich. The same attitude should inform how contemporary leaders offer services.

The Bible presents ancient Israel as a nationalistic state. God intended to formulate a nationalist state. To succeed, the Hebrews needed a nationalistic mindset. For example, they avoided pagans and developed their unique laws, culture, and religion (Deuteronomy 5). Bible teaches nationalism to the extent that believers must follow their land laws, regardless of where they reside. However, nationalism may fail to follow Christian values if it takes “Christian nationalism.” According to Miller (2021), Christian nationalism asserts Christianity’s domination and establishment of a nation’s principles on Christian values. In essence, it results in religious and cultural intolerance.

I think nationalism originates from the perceptions of human heritage. Humans share a common life, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or religion. Individuals shape each other through mutual encounters, appropriately giving rise to expectations about treating strangers differently than the treatment accorded to natives. The Christian belief of providence may provide a vital way of understanding how Christians accord differential treatment to immigrants. Humans are creatures of time, mortal beings that inherit a past and live in a particular community. Nationalism and border security are closely related. Individuals advancing nationalistic tendencies see immigration as a threat to national identities, thereby supporting border security.

The Bible offers essential insights into God’s view of border security. The government is expected to ensure secure national borders and monitor every person that may seek to harm the citizens. This role is consistent with the God-ordained government role in Romans 32:17 and Numbers 32:17, which illustrates cities’ fortification. Nonetheless, secure borders should be used in protecting the nation and not prevent individuals from fleeing persecution from entering the country. It is vital that the US government implements effective border protection laws but ensures the protection of individuals seeking asylum. While God created the concept of nations, governments, and elements like border security, it is vital to uphold biblical principles while implementing immigration laws. For example, it is wrong to split families while enforcing border security laws.

Military force and security have direct links to the Bible in both the New and the Old Testaments. Lords of the early Church commended soldiers who were believers in Christ.  For example, Jesus praised the humility and faith of the centurion. The Roman centurion, Cornelius, was included in the people of God on Acts 10:1-4. In 1 Cor.9:7, Paul did not have any condemnation for individuals who served in the military; instead, he asserted that they were worthy of their wages.

Economics

There are many benefits to crafting a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Migration is a critical expression of factor mobility that enhances efficient resource allocation that boosts production. Nonetheless, migrants are different from other production factors in that they carry origin-specific attributes that they take from place to place. Because migrants might speak different languages and behave differently according to their cultures, intercultural interactions in the social and economic sphere can be costly. Direct costs range from social conflicts to transactional costs such as translation. Indirect costs may stem from the high unemployment rates among immigrants who struggle to settle in new countries. Lack of education opportunities and reduced healthcare access can also increase the economic and social costs that host counties have to accommodate.

Decades of experience with immigration have demonstrated that the most efficient way of realizing maximum economic benefits from immigration is to integrate immigrants into society. Integrating migrants does not end with allowing them into society. Authorities need to put measures to ensure smooth settling in society to enable migrants to contribute positively to economic development. For example, local governments can quicken the integration process by providing language training and vocational training to allow individuals to seek employment opportunities.

Immigrants contribute to economic development through immigrant entrepreneurship. Immigrants have a higher affinity to take entrepreneurial ventures, including small business establishments. Because of the disparities in education between immigrants and natives, individuals arriving from other countries are likely to take up entrepreneurship. These establishments create employment for local communities and spur economic growth. However, it is essential to assist immigrants in setting up entrepreneurial ventures, including licensing, funding, and training.

Most immigrants come into the country in their most productive years. In essence, immigration helps in building diverse societies that can withstand pressures that come with aging populations. Immigrants take up essential skilled and nonskilled work in the construction industry, logistics, and transportation. These industries are critical in supporting commerce and thriving economies. A positive contribution to the working-age population will cover baby boomers’ loss as they approach retirement age.

As a Christina congressperson, it is essential to care about economic issues touching on immigrants. For a long time, hair salons, grocery stores, gas stations, and dry cleaning businesses have been popular among immigrants (Jawetz, 2019). They take up most of these businesses and provide essential services to communities. As a Christian congressperson, helping immigrants set up their companies will be commendable to brothers and sisters in Christ. Direct efforts may include sponsoring legislation that limits licensing bureaucracies that unfairly target immigrants, introducing vocational training to help immigrants set their businesses, and provide education about available businesses in communities.

Rural communities have experienced a sustained decline over the years. Immigrants provide a breathing life to these communities by resettling in towns that experience population declines. Sustained population losses contribute to the closure of facilities like schools, hospitals, and community centers. Additionally, businesses, including restaurants and entertainment centers, close down because of reduced markets (Jawetz, 2019). Immigrant populations help businesses and services in rural areas to remain active, which is vital in creating and maintaining employment opportunities in rural areas. More individuals in rural areas are expected to move to urban areas as the technology age manifests. Therefore, immigration is the best solution to prevent rural areas from collapsing.

Rule of Law

Visa overstays cause significant problems to US immigration. While this problem accounts for the highest number of undocumented individuals in the country, some individuals remain legal although they might have overstayed their visas. Suppose an individual remains in the country in the hope of applying for a change of status or an extension of the current stay (status extension) (Frost, 2020). In that case, the law protects them from assuming an illegal status. Generally, provided and individual files for an extension or change in status before the visa expiration, nonimmigrants do not accrue the unlawful tag.

The 60-day rule protects individuals who have lost their jobs to remain legal as they look for a new income source. Generally, it allows individuals a maximum of sixty days from the day the employment ended to look for a job or leave the country (Frost, 2020). Individuals cannot work during the 60-day window but can find an employer to apply for an extension. In some cases, individuals are allowed to overstay their visas legally in cases of emergency. For example, during the COVID-19 lockdown period, international travel was impossible, potentially causing thousands of individuals to overstay their visas.

The rule of law asserts the dominance of laws and not men. In essence, the rule of law subordinates arbitrary power and public officials’ will to guide laws created and implemented to serve the public good. It allows the regulation of the public as well as private power to advance the public interest. The mere presence of laws does not imply that society will be perfect. The rule of law enhances the objective application of laws, regardless of the individual differences in communities. The rule of law is critical toward maintaining peace, political stability, and security (United Nations, n.d.). The social and economic progress in society depends on protecting fundamental freedoms and people’s rights. These protections can only be achieved where there is the rule of law.

On the protection of children, William Wilberforce asserts the importance of upholding children’s fundamental dignity at the expense of the desire for efficacy in immigration processing (Lagon & McCormick, 2014). The government should make asylum seekers aware of their rights instead of obscuring legal provisions. Wilberforce would not recommend violating US laws because the law forms the foundation of his argument. Nichols & McCarty (2011) raise questions about how Christians should respond to repressive regimes. They argue that Christians can either submit or resist civil authorities. I think the authors would recommend civil disobedience under repressive governments. Martin Luther contends that there are two kingdoms, one ruled by Christ and those in the word’s kingdom. The believers in the former are in a world led through the Holy Spirit without force (Luther, n.d.). He affirms that there would be no need for the sword or the law if all were Christians. I think his strong belief that the government had no religious role would have promoted him to advocate for civil unrest to oppose government rule on Christians.  

Exploring Current Policy Perspectives

Bernie Sander’s immigration proposal is based on the affirmation that America is a nation of immigrants. This diversity is critical toward ensuring unity in the United States. Sander’s comprehensive immigration plan supports border security, visa reforms, and undocumented and guest workers’ protection from exploitation. Recommendations include hiring more judges to enhance faster asylum processing for individuals fleeing violence and persecution. Bernie’s reform is worth supporting because it tackles fundamental immigration issues, including DAPA and DACA, expanding the path for citizenship and ending families’ separation. Bernie had participated in immigration reforms throughout the years, and the recommendations are based on logic and research.

Fig 1: Assessing Sanders’ Recommendations Using the Evangelical Immigration Table

  Principle  Analysis of Adherence
Respect to God-given dignity of every personThe policy proposal protects the rights of undocumented and guest workers and outs in place measures to avert labor exploitation
Fairness to taxpayersThe policy opposes building a border wall with Mexico, which will put an unnecessary burden on taxpayers.
Protection of the unity of the immediate family  The policy recommendation echoes the Uniting Families Act (2013), spearheaded by the senator to protect immediate families in implementing immigration policies.
Guarantees secure national borders  The policy recommends increased border patrols and opposes an open border policy. The proposal also deviates from the idea of building a wall for purposes of reinforcing border security.
Establishment of  a path toward legal statusThe policy supports the DREAM Act aimed at giving young undocumented immigrants pathways toward citizenship.

As a Christian legislator, there are essential facts to bear in mind. While God created the concept of nations, governments, and elements like border security, it is vital to uphold biblical principles while implementing immigration laws. The Bible provides an essential perspective of immigration from the book of genesis. God made a covenant with Abraham (Gen 12, 15), promising him offspring, blessing, and land. While Christians may not directly relate to the nation of Israel, love, and care for immigrants are universal principles among all believers. Both Mathew 22 and Leviticus 19 emphasize the love of neighbors. Peter 1:1weighs into the immigration debate by reminding readers regarding their present reality, calling them “elect immigrants.”

Most of the people that seek refuge in the country are not drug smuggling and gun-toting criminals but children of God trying to support their relatives and family. Therefore, it is critical as a leader to consider the plight of individuals fleeing violence and prosecution. Additionally, the government should guarantee immediate families’ protection and foster a path toward citizenship for young individuals without documentation. In this regard, it would be wise to support the immigration policy recommended by senator Bernie Sanders.

References

Enrique, G. (2020). What does Saint Thomas say about immigration? Retrieved March 5, 2021, from https://www.researchgate.net/post/What_Does_Saint_Thomas_Say_About_Immigration

Evangelical Immigration Table (2019). Thinking Biblically about immigrant and immigration reform. Retrieved March 5, 2021, from https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/welcomingimmigrants/pages/64/attachments/original/1556025412/thinking-biblically-about-immigrants-and-immigration-reform-ebook.pdf?1556025412

Frost, N. (2020). What should you do if you risk overstaying your US visa due to Covid-19? Retrieved March 5, 2021, from https://qz.com/1837907/what-to-do-if-you-risk-overstaying-your-us-visa-due-to-covid-19/

Jawetz, T. Building a more dynamic economy: The benefits of immigration. Retrieved March 5, 2021, from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/reports/2019/06/26/471497/building-dynamic-economy-benefits-immigration/

Lagon, M, & McCormick, P. (2014). Protect undocumented children: Preserve the Wilberforce law. Retrieved March 5, 2021, from https://www.georgetownjournalofinternationalaffairs.org/online-edition/protect-undocumented-children-preserve-the-wilberforce-law

Luther, M. (1961). Secular Authority: To what extent it should be obeyed. Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings, 363-402.

Miller, P. (2021). What is Christian nationalism? Retrieved March 5, 2021, from https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/february-web-only/what-is-christian-nationalism.html

Nichols, J. A., & McCarty III, J. W. (2011). When the state is evil: Biblical civil (dis) obedience in South Africa. John’s L. Rev.85, 593.

United Nations. (n.d.). What is the Rule of Law? Retrieved March 5, 2021, from https://www.un.org/ruleoflaw/what-is-the-rule-of-law/#:~:text=The%20rule%20of%20law%20is%20fundamental%20to%20international%20peace%20and,people’s%20rights%20and%20fundamental%20freedoms.

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