The current immigration crises in the country where children have been separated from their families and placed in detention-like facilities has moved me to pose the question: “What is the biblical truth about immigration”. To compound matters, the distortion of the truth on immigration by some “Evangelical Christians” makes me wonder whether they advocate for Christ or the devil in matters that affects the other.
Is the human identity of the immigrant different based on the timeline involved in one’s arrival upon the shores of America? Or is the oppressive mechanism employed by those who first sought refuge in a land originally inhabited by the other they call the native American Indian, give them supremacy in their human identity to all others.
The biblical truth is that all humans have a sacred identity. Therefore, the immigrant has an identity that is sacred, as he or she is created in the image of God - the imago Dei. (Genesis 1:27). This is first and foremost the immigrant’s identity, regardless of his or her religion, race or creed. So then, all humans from the native American, to the first European settler, and from the imported African slave to the new immigrant from the south of the border are sacred in the sight of God. As such, any other human appendage ranging from “illegal” to “invader” and “vermin” to “animal” underscores the unchristian nature of the heart from which these pronouncements are made.
The words we use are important, more so are the words used by the leadership of our nation, and a segment of the Church that supports this leadership in describing others who are alien or foreign. The foreign identity of the immigrant is not superseded by his or her human identity, because the human identity is what collectively binds us all together within the human family as God’s beloved creation.
All of God’s creation within the human family are persons who are individually precious to Him, have value to Him, are under His grace, and are loved by Him. As such, if the immigrant is created in the image of God, the immigrant needs the support of the Church in extending not only the truth and grace of God but also the mercy and love of God in Christ. (Leviticus 19:38, Deuteronomy 10:19 and Deuteronomy 23:7)
In the Old Testament, Israel’s identity in the persons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were that of sojourners in Canaan, whose descendants were aliens in Egypt, until they were rescued by the hand of the Lord and delivered into Israel. In Leviticus 25:23 Israel was reminded that the land belonged to God. So, Israel was to take care of it as stewards and custodians, thus giving them the status of a chosen people of God who remained aliens.
This “chosen-alien” status reminded Israel of the need to have mercy and compassion, while providing community through love for the alien and the marginalized in their midst. This is what we need to emulate as opposed to putting immigrant children in “caged detentions”, considering our history as a nation of foreign white immigrants that enforced black slave labor.
In the New Testament Jesus exemplified through His life, His alien and marginalized status. The New Testament reflects Jesus as a child born in a barn, and as a political refugee in Egypt fleeing from Herod’s decree in the land of Palestine. He was the son of an unmarried pregnancy, and an immigrant from Nazareth. He was a carpenter, subject to the authority of imperialist Rome, and a friend to the prostitutes, the tax collectors and the Zealots of His time.
Jesus’ identity as reflected in the New Testament underscores His instruction to the host in Luke 14:12-14 to invite as His preferred guest for a banquet, the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Those who could not bring much or anything to the relationship with the host. Therefore, in welcoming the least of these as the hosts of vulnerable immigrants, we are welcoming Jesus.
The biblical tradition of offering hospitality to the stranger is as old as the story of redemption itself. Hospitality to strangers is correlated in the identity of God’s own people who should consider themselves resident aliens on earth. This fact is central to the Christian community and essential to its mission mandate. The experience of the displacement of the migrant population, resulting from persecution, economic hardship and violence, that have sometimes been caused by those now rejecting the hospitality of the vulnerable, continues to exacerbate the increase of the vulnerable population. The Christian heart of a nation if it has one, needs to understand that such vulnerability requires the restoration of the immigrant into community, through forgiveness, healing and reconciliation as demanded by Christ.
There is truth that there are some of those who have nefarious motives in coming across the border to perpetrate crime and other vices. However, the criminals form a marginal number of the immigrants coming across the southern border. Many of the immigrants coming in from the south are people who have been displaced because of persecution, economic hardship and violence. They are immigrants who have voluntarily submitted themselves and their children to the laws of this country at the southern border seeking asylum, only to be separated from their children, without any apparent plan to reunite them as a family.
So then, what compounds the nefarious activity surrounding the immigration question is the deceit perpetrated by the leadership of this nation. A deceit that broadly paints the children and families fleeing violence and economic hardship as criminals to hide the true intent of a governmental policy designed to exclude those it considers inferior. However, in God’s eyes every one of His human creation is uniquely and wonderfully made.
The consequence of the current immigration policy is to compound the immigrant’s hardship with the violence of separating the immigrant from his or her child. So, in addition to fleeing from an initial violence or hardship, the immigrant has the added burden of being separated from his or her children. The aggravated violence the immigrant now suffers is the result of an immigration policy that has been fashioned by the vile pronouncements of our leadership. Pronouncements that defy the beauty of God’s unique and wonderful creation of humankind.
Therefore, I call out on all those who are true advocates for Christ to pray for the leadership of our nation. I call out for them to pray that our leadership is moved by compassion for those children intentionally separated from their parents. And I pray that our leadership has a change of heart from the harsh implementation of an immigration policy that destroys rather than heals families as demanded by Christ.