The President’s new immigration order, calling for a 90 day pause in immigration from 7 predominantly Muslim countries, has caused all sorts of controversy in the last week, including protests, court orders, and social media firestorms. But what should a follower of Jesus think about it?
Three questions ought to guide us in evaluating the President’s order: They are: 1) Is it legal? 2) Is it biblical? and 3) Is it wise? As to the first, the legal question, it appears to me, an untrained citizen, and not a constitutional lawyer, that this order is legal, falling within the authority of the Executive to establish these kinds of immigration policies.
But with regard to the second question, what do the Scriptures, a subject I know a little more about, have to say about immigration policy? First, the Bible does not endorse the idea of open borders and does not demand that a nation open its borders to anyone wanting to enter, whether legally or illegally. For example, God is the one who created nations and their borders. God scattered the nations from Babylon when the nations wanted to establish a one world project in Babylon. By confusing their languages, God started different nations and ethnicities and spread them across the earth (Gen 10:32-11:9). So in Deuteronomy 32:8, it says, “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance and divided the human race, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the people of Israel.” This is referring to the 70 nations in the table of nations of Genesis 10 and the 70 of the household of Jacob that went down to Egypt (Gen 46:27). The only point here is that God did establish borders for the nations and they were not necessarily open borders. In fact, in Deuteronomy 23:3, God banned the Moabites and Ammonites from immigration to Israel for 10 generations.
But some might object that in Matthew 25:31-46, the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, we are called to care for the least of Jesus’ brothers; that if we care for them we are actually caring for Him. But that’s not what the passage is about at all. It is speaking of judging individuals of the nations when Jesus returns. Their genuine faith in Jesus will be apparent based on the way they have cared for the Jewish people, Jesus’ brothers, during the tribulation, when they will face terrible anti-Semitism.
Nevertheless, by application, we should care for any who are suffering persecution. But we need to distinguish between the responsibilities of individuals versus nations. Of course I as an individual want to care for those suffering persecution and danger. But, according to Romans 13, it’s the responsibility of governments to protect its own citizens. The government is God’s servant for the good of its citizens and an avenger for those who do wrong (13:4). According to Scripture then, governments can establish immigration laws, practice enforcement, and even issue temporary immigration bans from dangerous areas.
Someone has asked me if I thought it was acceptable that the United States restricted Jewish immigration during the Nazi era, when Jewish people were trying to get out of Nazi Germany and Nazi controlled Europe? No, I don’t, but the circumstances then were significantly different than today in this respect. Jewish refugees from the Nazis had nowhere else to go; there were no nations willing to accept them. That is not the case with Syrian refugees today. Other nations are accepting them—in fact Turkey alone has accepted over 2 million refugees from Syria.
But what about the third question, Is it wise? I suppose that this is where my difficulty lies. It appears that the roll out of this executive order was not thought out completely. First of all, it seems that before issuing this order, the government should have worked on establishing safe zones within their countries for refugees fleeing danger. Second, it should have made clear from the outset that the order does not apply to people with US green cards. Third, it should have worked with our allies in the Arab world to establish alternate places for fleeing immigrants, places where they speak the language of the refugees and that are closer to their home country. Then, they could return home more easily when the crisis passes. These actions, and even some others, would have indicated our nation’s concern for those in dire need to escape danger.
Let’s be clear about what I am not saying and what I am saying: I am not saying that the Bible compels the government to issue this pause in immigration from these seven countries. I am saying it’s permissible according to the law and the Bible. But it was not issued with wisdom or compassion and we need to keep working on that.