What is the status of illegal immigrants the day after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling? The Court rejected Arizona’s law that made it a crime for illegal immigrants to seek work and that authorized warrantless arrests of those suspected of committing deportable offenses. However, police are still permitted to check the immigration status of individuals they suspect of being here illegally; those who lack legal status can then be deported. As you might expect, both sides are claiming victory today.
This is the second major immigration story to make headlines in recent days. On June 15, the Obama administration announced that it would stop deporting some illegal immigrants who were brought into the country as children. The president and his supporters call this action the “right thing to do for the American people.” Critics accuse him of currying favor with Hispanic voters and claim that he exceeded his legal authority.
I obviously have no legal expertise on this issue. But I am interested in the biblical and practical issues we should consider as we debate this very divisive subject. On the one hand, the Bible clearly requires us to treat immigrants with compassion. God warned Israel: “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry” (Exodus 22:21-23). The Jewish people were instructed to leave food for “the alien, the fatherless and the widow” (Deuteronomy 24:19).
Scripture teaches that “he who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done” (Proverbs 19:17). God makes no racial or socioeconomic distinctions between us: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). These facts would seem to support a policy of leniency toward immigrants, however they came to our country.
However, the Bible also clearly states, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1). If the law of the land prohibits illegal immigration, those who violate it would suffer the consequences of their decision.
How do we balance these biblical positions? Tomorrow we’ll discuss some of the practical issues in the debate and look for ways to apply God’s word to this divisive issue. In the meantime, please share your thoughts on our website. And know that whatever your racial, social, or economic background, you are loved by the God who made you. With him, where you came from is not nearly as important as where you’re going.