[Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens, and the Bible by James K. Hoffmeier (Crossway).

Chapter One: Crisis at the Border

You only need to turn on the news to realize that we have a problem. Some might even label it a crisis. It is not just an American issue—illegal immigration has become the major social and legal challenge facing the western world in the twenty-first century. By the middle of 2006, over eight thousand West Africans had sailed in small boats to the Spanish Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco, hoping to settle in Spain.1 On June 20, 2006, a group of Afghan asylum-seekers took sanctuary in St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin and began a hunger strike to draw attention to their demands, threatening suicide if the police tried to remove them. Neighboring Britain believes there are more than a half million illegal immigrants within its borders. And in Germany reports indicate there are more than one million "illegals." Even distant Australia is experiencing what CNN.com called "a tide" of illegal immigrants.

But in America the numbers are even more staggering. An estimated twelve to fifteen million (some reports are as high as twenty million) now reside illegally in the U.S.A. In one border state, Arizona, 10 percent of the population is now made up of illegal aliens.2 In April and May of 2006, millions of immigrants and their supporters took to the streets of New York, Los Angeles, and other American cities to demand the rights of citizens. In the eyes of many, this was a polarizing development because illegal immigrants came out of the shadows in droves to press Congress for legal recognition and to protest a law passed by the House of Representatives that made entering America illegally a felony.

In 2007 the Senate, with the prompting of President George Bush, tried to pass a comprehensive immigration bill that sought a legal solution to the undocumented millions. That summer, however, the measure failed due to an outcry from angry constituents who did not want to give "amnesty" to those who enter America illegally, while others thought that the path to legalization was too severe and would pose excessive financial hardship on poor people. These polar opposite positions indicated just how divided the American people are on the problem of illegal aliens.

This is not the place to debate the problems or the merits of immigration for America. The pressing issue is what to do with the millions of illegal aliens already here. Furthermore, politicians have had a difficult time agreeing on how or whether to defend the southern border, although a consensus has emerged that defending that border is a necessary first step. The world's longest undefended border, that between Canada and the U.S.A., has not been an issue because there has not been an onslaught of illegal entries from the north. Consequently, most of the current debate surrounds the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

While some argue over the economic issues of immigration, that is, whether it is good or bad for the economy, others focus on the moral and legal questions. As a result, the nation as a whole and politicians in particular are divided. Republicans in the House and the Senate support diametrically opposing bills on how to handle the status of illegal immigrants—amnesty versus none. Democrat leaders are less divided, but there are differences among them nonetheless. Similarly, the Christian community is also at odds regarding the proper response to the immigration problem. Christianity Today magazine in a recent article offered this gripping subtitle: "Evangelical leaders divided over moral, policy questions on immigration."3 No doubt people who consider the Bible to be a source of moral and ethical authority want to know what it has to say on how the nation should respond to the presence of illegal immigrants.