For many American Christians, the images that come to mind when we think about immigration are of fences and walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. Questions of border security have often been at the center of political debates in Washington, D.C.
While immigration is a much broader topic than just the U.S.-Mexico border — after all, most immigrants come to the U.S. via airplanes, including many unauthorized immigrants who initially enter on temporary visas — the security of the United States’ borders with both Mexico and Canada is an important matter. Christians want to be part of a compassionate nation that welcomes immigrants, and we also want to be safe.
The Role of Borders Are to Protect the Nation, Not Keep Out Those Fleeing Persecution
We should expect our government to ensure secure national borders, to track everyone who comes into the U.S. and to ensure that no one who would seek to do harm is able to enter. That’s consistent with the God-ordained role of government described in the Bible (Romans 13:1) and with the Israelites’ establishment of fortified cities “for protection” (Numbers 32:17).
The role of secure borders should be to protect the nation, however, not to keep out those fleeing persecution. It’s vital that as government invests in border security, it also respect U.S. laws that allow those with a credible fear of persecution to request asylum. These individuals should be screened and vetted — both to make sure they truly qualify under the terms of U.S. law and to ensure that they do not present a public safety or national security threat.
The Vetting Process Is Extremely Thorough and Must Remain So
For decades, the U.S. government has proved that it does carefully vet those seeking to enter the U.S. lawfully. The U.S. refugee resettlement program is a great example: Since 1980, when the Refugee Act was signed into law, roughly 3 million refugees have been identified overseas, vetted and then invited to rebuild their lives in the U.S. The vetting process currently in place for the refugee program is extremely thorough, including multiple layers of background checks, retina scans, fingerprints and in-person interviews with trained officers of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It’s been remarkably effective: Of those 3 million refugees admitted since 1980, not a single one has taken an American life in a terrorist attack. (Alex Nowrasteh, “Terrorism and Immigration: A Risk Analysis,” Cato Institute, Sept. 13, 2016).
Many of these refugees have been persecuted Christians who faced the threat of violence because of their faith in Jesus in their countries of origin, who now have found safety and religious freedom in the U.S., often planting new churches here in the process. Others have come from other religious traditions but encountered the hope of a relationship with Jesus in the U.S. when welcomed by American Christians.
Our government should apply an appropriate level of security for all who seek to enter the U.S., identifying themselves, submitting themselves to efficient and thorough inspection and vetting and complying with legal requirements for admission.
Building a More Robust Legal Immigration System for Those Seeking Work
There has been significant progress in the past decades toward securing the U.S.- Mexico border. Far fewer individuals are able to enter the country surreptitiously today than 10 or 15 years ago, in part because of significant investments in border security technology, strategic physical barriers and personnel. Still, most Americans feel more needs to be done. While we may have differences of opinion about what mix of structures and technologies is best to ensure that the government has control over the border, a significant investment is necessary. To stop drug and human smugglers, elected leaders need to take the challenge of border security seriously and be committed to doing what it takes to ensure that our government has control over the U.S.-Mexico border.
Lastly, one of the best ways to reduce illegal immigration is by building a more functional, robust legal immigration system — not just for those fleeing persecution (who may qualify for asylum or refugee status) but also for those seeking to meet a labor need in the U.S. Most immigrants would much rather go through an application and vetting process closer to their homes and then come safely to the U.S. on an airplane with a visa than make a very dangerous journey across Mexico. However, current policies often make this impossible. Those facing credible fears of persecution may feel no choice but to reach the border to request asylum. Those seeking employment may see no possibility except to overstay a temporary visa. Some misuse the asylum system or may attempt to sneak into the U.S. A functional legal immigration system would go a long way toward reducing illegal immigration and allow the Department of Homeland Security to improve border security to keep Americans safe.
Publication Date: July 31, 2019
Image Credit: ©GettyImages_Greg-Bulla
For more on this subject from the Evangelical Immigration Table, check out:
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT IMMIGRATION?
THE GREAT COMMANDMENT: APPLYING THE BIBLE TO CARING FOR REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS?
HOW IMMIGRANTS FIT INTO THE BODY OF CHRIST AND THE LOCAL CHURCH
"GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES" - DOES THE GREAT COMMISSION APPLY TO IMMIGRATION?
HOW TO RESPECT THE GOD-GIVEN DIGNITY OF EVERY IMMIGRANT
WHY GOD WANTS US TO PROTECT THE FAMILY UNIT OF IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
HOW SHOULD CHRISTIANS RESPOND TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION?
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT BORDER SECURITY AND SHOULD CHRISTIANS SUPPORT THEM?
The Evangelical Immigration Table is a place where evangelical Christians of various denominations, theological traditions, ethnicities and political perspectives gather together, just as in the Bible the table represents hospitality and is the place where believers come together, united by Christ. The Evangelical Immigration Table exists to encourage distinctly biblical thinking about issues of immigration, providing discipleship resources focused on immigration from a biblical and missional perspective as well as advocating for public policies consistent with biblical values, specifically restitution based immigration reform.