Immigration has been a hot-button issue for nearly a decade and it’s even more controversial now, after the November presidential election.
The issue has attracted such high-wattage political rhetoric as identity politics, minority rights, xenophobia, and racism — making immigration policies nothing short of just another way for politicians to gain or lose voters. Instead of adult conversations revolving around real solutions, too many people have resorted to name-calling, pointing the finger of blame and judgment, and, in essence, toddler tantrums and irrational fear from grown men and women who should know better.
Alas, such is our current political and societal climate. Consider this:
- If you’re against illegal immigration and for building a wall, you’re a xenophobe and somehow a bigot.
- If you think border security and protection is somehow being insensitive, un-Christian, and just downright mean-spirited, then you’ve associated with the hundreds of snowflakes melting all over our roadways and college campuses.
Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Moreover, can a Christian even support Trump’s immigration policies?
It’s amazing how many on the Left discard the teachings of the Bible and Christ as being outdated, anachronistic, and even tyrannical.
Abortion? Gay marriage? Sex? The Bible is wrong, wrong, wrong!
Helping the poor and least among us, including immigrants? We’re not doing enough to follow the Bible!
But what does the Bible actually say? The Bible is unclear on the stance of immigration as we know it, of course, yet throughout the Old Testament, the stranger — or alien — was to be treated kindly and with respect, even provided for. “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:34).
The church instructs us that political authorities have two duties in governing the people. The first duty is to welcome the foreigner out of respect for the human person. This follows the commandment of God to treat the sojourner with respect and to love this person as ourselves. This is especially true if the immigrant is fleeing a place that does not respect the human person: “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him” (Catholic Catechism, 2241).
However, does this mean that nations have an obligation to the sojourner above that of their citizens? The answer is plainly no. Saint Paul tells us in Romans 13:1-7 we must obey the laws of the nation. Obeying the laws of a nation also includes obeying national sovereignty. A nation has the right and obligation to protect its own citizens first and foremost; this is the second duty of good government. If political authorities of a nation see fit to exercise caution with immigration for the sake of the common good, that is their right and obligation.
“Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens” (Catholic Catechism, 2241).
Moreover, nations have a duty to secure their borders and enforce laws for the sake of the common good.
So Is There a Christian Obligation Toward Immigration?
The short answer to this is yes: Christians certainly do have an obligation to accept immigrants. However, they do not have an obligation to accept immigrants who do not respect the laws of their nation — and that includes laws that protect national sovereignty and security.
In the second half of #2241 of the Catholic Catechism, the church teaches us that immigrants are obliged to respect the laws of the nation. Good government has the first and foremost obligation to protect its citizens. Without securing the borders, this becomes almost impossible to do so. Good governments must balance the duty to protect their citizens and the national common good with that of the international community.
The obligation of prosperous nations to accept immigrants only extends to accepting law-abiding immigrants who also respect the spiritual heritage of the country, as well as hold the same respect for human dignity (Catholic Catechism, 1911).
Furthermore, a nation cannot guarantee the safety of its citizens by accepting certain immigrants who cannot be vetted, as in the case of many immigrants who cross the border illegally. By not guaranteeing the safety of its citizens, the government is not fulfilling its duty of providing for the common good. If a nation cannot give security and protection to its own citizens, how can it possibly guarantee security of the international community?
President Donald Trump’s policies are to secure the border and enforce already existing immigration laws. By providing security to American citizens through strong borders, his administration is providing for the welfare of the common good. This security and welfare can then be spread to the immigrant population that respects the laws of our nation, including our immigration laws.
These laws are not only in place to protect the current citizens — but also future citizens, including immigrants.
Steffani Jacobs is a freelance writer based in the Twin Cities area. She has written about everything from military history and weaponry to theology and church doctrine.