06/08/2012 10:26 am ET Updated Aug 07, 2012

Toward a Biblical Immigration Policy

"When all else fails, read the instructions." That is one of the ways some people look at the Bible. The Bible is read as the rule book. While they may pick and chose which rules they want to follow, their position on issues is: "What it says in the Bible." My friends and I find the Bible much more helpful as a "conversation about God and life with a lot of people." Like Job and his friends had a conversation about God's ways with humans, the whole Bible seems to me to be much more helpful as a conversation with people who take God very seriously. One of the minor topics in this conversation is what are we to do with the foreigner in our midst. These people who are not like us, these strangers, how are we to live with them. The Old Testament on this issue is a great example of the conversation. There are about 50 or more references to the "foreigner" and about 50 references to the "stranger" in their society. Many of those references suggest that the Children of Israel can do a lot of things to the foreigners that are not permitted to be done with the Children of Israel. After the exile, Ezra and Nehemiah want to get the Children of Israel to purify themselves and get all the foreigner wives, foreigners, strangers out of the community so that the new Jerusalem can be only the Children of Israel. But there is another side of the conversation. There are passages in Exodus and Leviticus that instruct the Children of Israel not to "vex or oppress the stranger" because they need to remember that they were strangers in Egypt. The strangers are to be treated with kindness and graciousness because the people Moses led out of Egypt had been mistreated as strangers. "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall do him no harm." Show them some hospitality and kindness. Of course, Jesus in the New Testament has real trouble just sticking to his own kind. One of the major sources of his trouble was that he was always sticking up for and promoting the behavior of the Samaritans. When the Holy Spirit comes in Acts everybody in the whole town -- all of the strangers and foreigners listed -- is included in the communications. Paul declares that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, Greek or Roman, male or female, no distinctions for all are one in the new kingdom. So a lot of the participants in the conversation about foreigners have no problem with them or encourage us to be gracious to them. What we are doing to our foreigners in this country right now is not very kind or gracious. The refusal to address the immigration issue is cruel and makes the declaration on the Statue of Liberty a joke. We need to take a page from the biblical conversation and develop a gracious and honorable immigration policy. To adopt a comprehensive immigration policy would be the most gracious thing we could do for them and for our own integrity. A comprehensive immigration policy would have a number of different parts:
  1. There would have to be attention give to the borders. Entrance policies need to be adopted to allow the coming and going legally so that there is no need to sneak in, and criminal records could be checked.
  2. Those who are here illegally need to make some confession of their illegal status and pay some fine, not amnesty. (A Hispanic leader in North Carolina even indicated that a fine as high as3,000 or4,000 might be acceptable.)
  3. Those who confess and pay the fine need to be given some means, some program by which they might obtain citizenship for themselves and for the children brought here as babies or obtain legal working papers.
We will not be able to send them all back home. To continue to leave them in limbo is a mean and dishonorable treatment of them. We need to take part in the conversation with the Bible and find a immigration policy that enables them to come out of hiding, to become tax paying people, to welcome their contributions and which at the same time respects the borders and the laws of this country. It can be done. It would be a good and gracious thing to do.