Arizona’s law enforcement officers say that Monday’s Supreme Court immigration ruling has left them with more questions than answers. They’re not alone. Of the 52 million immigrants in America, 12 million are here illegally. As we saw yesterday, God’s word instructed Israel to care for “aliens” (Exodus 22:21-23; Deuteronomy 24:19). At the same time, Scripture teaches that we must submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1). On the issue of illegal immigration, how can we exhibit compassion and obey the law at the same time?
Here are six arguments often made for leniency:
- More than four million children are born each year to undocumented parents on American soil. The 14th Amendment confers citizenship on anyone born here; it is wrong to separate these children from their parents.
- We cannot afford to deport or imprison 12 million people.
- Our economy relies on labor provided by illegal immigrants, many of whom take jobs most citizens would refuse (at the wages paid to undocumented workers).
- Within 10 years of arrival, more than 75% of immigrants speak English well.
- Immigrants do not make our country less American. The percentage of the U.S. population that was foreign-born now stands at 11.5%; in the early 20th century, it was 15%.
- Terrorism is not a significant element in this debate—the 9-11 terrorists were here on legal visas.
Here are common arguments against leniency:
- Amnesty would only encourage more illegal immigration.
- Most illegal immigrants are impoverished, adding an enormous financial burden to our troubled economy. The Federation for American Immigration Reform estimates that illegal immigration costs taxpayers $113 billion a year.
- Amnesty rewards wrong behavior, conferring rights and/or citizenship on those who entered our country ahead of those following the legal process.
One way to demonstrate compassion while enforcing the law is to focus on incentives. Undocumented immigrants have greater motivation to risk imprisonment or worse by coming illegally to our country than they do to remain at home. If we enforce laws against those who profit from illegal labor, we make it less likely that undocumented immigrants will find work in America. If part of the funds used to prevent illegal immigration were invested in the economies they leave to come here, we would incentivize immigrants to stay home while building financial partners for our nation.
However we see this issue, it is clear that God is trusting Christians in America with a significant missionary opportunity. We were commissioned to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19); now the nations have come to our shores. Will you pray today for our leaders to seek God’s wisdom as they address this very complex issue? Will you pray for immigrants to hear and respond to the gospel? If you would like to get involved personally, you might consider the Immigration Service and Aid Center, a partnership between the Baptist University of the Americas and Texas Baptists.
Mother Teresa noted that people “may look different or be dressed differently, or have a different education or position. But they are all the same. They are all people to be loved. They are all hungry for love.” Will they see God’s love in ours today?