How Christians are to understand immigration

In 2011, the Southern Baptist Convention published a statement addressing how Christians are to view immigration and illegal immigration. I thought it might be helpful to summarize what they said, just to set the record straight on what we Christians believe.

The statement begins by laying the foundation of our belief. People are to believe that Christians understand that the Kingdom of God is made up of persons from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language. This means we are not to discriminate against immigrants based on their nationality, culture or race. We are reminded that our Jewish ancestors were sojourners and aliens in the land of Egypt, and the gospel (Matthew 2:13-23) tells us that Christ lived his childhood years as an immigrant and refugee. This means we Christians should easily be able to identify with the mindset and position of the immigrant. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves and show compassion and justice for all persons who wish to immigrate to this country. We are told that a response to the most vulnerable among us is a response to Christ himself. The Bible denounces the exploitation of workers and the mistreatment of the poor.

After laying the foundation of love, mercy and justice for immigrants, the statement then gets into the details of how we are to treat this relatively invisible group of our population. We must be aware of the detrimental consequences in terms of health, education, and the well-being of these people, especially the children, but we must recognize we are under the rule of law and we are to respect and support the divinely-ordained institution of government and its just laws which are in place o maintain borders to protect the security of its citizens. We therefore must not support sanctuary cities or states, nor should we support amnesty for any undocumented immigrant.

Regardless of our understanding that people who come to our country illegally are desiring a better future for themselves and their families, we must nonetheless recognize that these undocumented immigrants are in violation of the law of the land. We ask our governing authorities to prioritize efforts to secure the borders and to hold businesses accountable for hiring practices as they relate to immigration status. That said, we declare that any form of nativism, mistreatment, or exploitation is inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we deplore any bigotry or harassment against any persons, regardless of their country of origin or legal status. To that end, we ask our governing authorities to implement, with the borders secured, a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country. 

The statement ends with a request for us to pray for our churches to demonstrate the reconciliation of the Kingdom both in the verbal witness of our gospel and in the visible makeup of our congregations. I believe this statement speaks for all of us Christians, regardless of our denomination.



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