What does God want us to do about the illegal aliens who are risking life and limb to travel to the U.S.?
The recent surge of people seeking to enter the United States whether legally or not has created much “soul-searching” among Christians. Some believe we should close our borders and refuse to allow immigrants to enter. Others — as the question indicates — want to find a response that would be faithful to our Christian beliefs.
The Old Testament — in several places — admonishes the Israelites to remember that they were once strangers in a strange land, and therefore they should treat resident aliens with kindness and generosity (see Leviticus 19:10, 33-34; 23:22; Deuteronomy 14:29). And the prophet Ezekiel even envisioned a time when the aliens would become citizens.
When we turn to the New Testament, the passage that comes immediately to mind is Matthew’s account of the “last judgment” which reads, in part:
Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you … for I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me … (Matthew 25:34b-35; emphasis added).
On the whole, it seems to me the Biblical record is clear: we should treat the migrants with love and seek to do all that we can to make their lives here as bearable and sustainable as we can.
But it seems to me that we must do more than that. Our welcoming love and care for the migrants must be accompanied by an effort to attain justice and draw closer to the biblical concept of shalom.
Andrew Whitehead in a book entitled American Idolatry writes: “Part of our loving the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant is recognizing our own complicity in the systems of injustice that create and perpetuate their marginalization and suffering.”
Whitehead reminds us that we need to do what we can to bring greater justice, economic stability, and safety to the migrants’ homelands and thereby reduce the need or desirability of migration.