Politics and the Church – Extrication from the Shoal Waters [Part 25]

This week we will approach the subject of immigration…both legal and illegal.  In my research to write on this subject I have found that immigration…both legal and illegal…can have positive and negative impacts on a nation.  The bottom line, though, is that anytime the laws of a nation are broken, even the positive impacts eventually have negative consequences.  This is especially true when the government…the ‘navigation crew’…ignores the situation for years on end.  The civil government is established by God to do “good” for its people, as God’s “servant” [Romans 13:4].  It should “praise those who do good’ [1 Peter 2:14].  It must also “punish those who do evil” [1 Peter 2:14].   Both responsibilities are to prevent wrongdoing and to protect its citizens and also to act as God’s “servant” who “carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” [Romans 13:4].  The foreign policy must first of all work toward the goal of defending the nation against attack or harm from other nations or entities, both covert and overt.

Federal law currently allows 675,000 legal immigrants each year to legally enter the country.  Congress and the president can set an additional number for special refugees.  Some 40,000 federal agents are paid to enforce these laws but it would ‘appear’ that we are not getting what we pay for as there are an estimated 11.7 million illegal immigrants now residing in the United States…up from 8.5 million in 2000 [Statistic Brain, “Illegal Immigration Population Statistics, January 1, 2014].  From this group unfortunately many problems have arisen.  Illegal aliens make up approximately 8.6% of the adult population but 26.4% of the federal prison inmates [Steven A. Camarota and Jessica Vaughan, “Immigration and Crime: Assessing a Conflicted Issue”, Center for Immigration Studies, November 2009] and 25% of the drug offenders [Ibid].  In 2013 alone Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released 36,007 detained illegal immigrants back into the country, including some 200 murderers, 400 rapists, 300 kidnappers as well as 16,000 convicted of DUI, 2,700 convicted of assault, 1,300 of domestic violence, and 1,300 of battery [Chuck Ross, “Murderers, Rapists, Kidnappers: Over 36,000 Criminal Illegal Immigrants Released in 2013”, The Daily Caller, May 12, 2014].  Those illegals released back into the community had been responsible for 88,000 crimes [Ibid].

In addition to the costs associated with crimes, many illegals openly participate in government benefit programs, with the average illegal immigrant household receiving $14,387 more in benefits than it pays in taxes [Robert Rector and Jason Richwine, “The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the US Taxpayer”, The Heritage Foundation, May 6, 2013].  The Bible warns, “When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it safe to do wrong” [Eccles. 8:11].  When the government…the ‘navigation crew’… refuses to enforce the laws…pay attention to the ‘nav charts’…it encourages more individuals to break the law and on a more frequent basis, thus getting the nation…”ship of state”…further and further into ‘shoal waters’.  Laws should be enforced or they should be changed or repealed, but never should they be ignored.  So many lawmakers today think that if they pass a law they have done their job.  How sad!

But the discussion on immigration doesn’t stop there.  It is much more complicated.  The Old Testament has many verses that command the people of Israel to treat the “sojourner”…some versions say “alien”…fairly and with kindness and love.  For example, “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” [Exod. 22:21].  Is this sojourner of the Bible the same as a foreign immigrant in a nation today?  In the book The Immigration Crisis, its author and Old Testament scholar James Hoffmeier, says that the word translated “alien” (NIV) or “sojourner” or “stranger” (ESV, NASB, KJV) in these Old Testament verses was “a person who entered Israel and followed legal procedures to obtain recognized standing as a resident alien” [James Hoffmeier, The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens, and the Bible, Crossway Books, 2009, pg. 52].  The specific Hebrew word “ger”  refers to such an “alien” or “sojourner”.  These verses about the “sojourner” (ger) refer to legal immigrants into a country [Ibid}.  Other people who did not have this recognized standing were simply termed “foreigners” (nekhar and zar) and they did not have the same benefits or privileges that sojourners did [Hoffmeier, pgs. 52, 89, 156].  Therefore, one can conclude that illegal immigrants should not expect the same privileges from the state whose laws they disregard by virtue of their undocumented status…illegal status.  The Bible clearly distinguishes between the status of a legal alien (ger) and a foreigner (nekhar and zar).  As a consequence there really is a difference between the legal standing of a present-day documented alien and an illegal immigrant.  Therefore, it is legally and morally acceptable for government to deal with those in the country illegally according to the nation’s laws.  All are to be treated in a humane manner, however [Ibid, pgs. 156-157].  Nowhere in the Old Testament is there any sense that a nation had to accept immigrants, nor was being received as an alien a right [Ibid, pg.156].  Another important consideration from the Bible concerns the general responsibilities of government to seek the good of the nations that they rule [Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14] and thereby truly serve as “God’s servant for your good” [Romans 13:4].  The immigration policies of a nation should be designed to bring benefit to that specific nation.

The United States should control all immigration processes so that the country gives priority to accepting those people who will most likely make a positive contribution to US society.  It is appropriate that priority in immigration be given, for example, to those who have sufficient education and training to support themselves and contribute well to American society, those who have demonstrated significant achievement in some area or another, and those who otherwise give evidence they will make a positive contribution.  It would likewise be appropriate to exclude those with a criminal record, those who have communicable diseases, or those who otherwise give indication that their overall contribution would likely be negative rather than positive.

As I anticipated, this subject is too complex to be covered in one week.  Next week we will look at the problems both legal and illegal immigration has brought to the United States.  Eventually in this series we will cover the positive aspects of immigration and how we can make it a positive event for the nation, but as for now we will look at some of the reasons immigration has become such a ‘hotbed’ in today’s politics and why some churches have become part of the problem…through criminal acts… rather than part of the solution.  A criminal act with good intentions is still a criminal act.  Today’s immigration laws do not fall into that category of laws that God’s Word tells us we must violate.

– Bob Munsey

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