Illegal immigration has become a controversial hot button issue in the United States today. Some argue that the immigration laws are unfair, unjust, and even discriminatory. Others claim that the lack of enforcement of immigration laws give individuals justification to immigrate here illegally.

Some Christian critics of illegal immigration often quote Romans 13:1–7 to justify massive deportation of illegal immigrants. Yes, God expects us to obey the laws of the government, but He also gives us an exception to this is whenever a law of the government forces us to disobey a command of God. (Acts 5:29) Yes, illegal immigration is the breaking of a governmental law, but does God give us an exception to this law?

Leviticus 19:33-34 states: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”

And in Deuteronomy 10:18 we read: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.”

Jesus himself said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)

The vast majority of illegal immigrants in the United States have come for the purpose of having a better life, providing for their families, and escaping from poverty and violence.

Why should the immigrant or the “foreigner who resides among you” be such a concern to the Jewish and Christian faiths and what bearing does it have on the current immigration debate in our country?

God didn’t want the ancient Hebrews to forget where they had come from, or how they had gotten where they were. They had come from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. They knew what it was like to be exploited and taken advantage of. Now that they had land and wealth God didn’t want them to forget that that hadn’t always been the case.

Most Americans are the descendants of immigrants.
When European settlers arrived on the North American continent at the end of the fifteenth century, they encountered diverse Native American cultures—as many as 900,000 inhabitants with over 300 different languages. These indigenous people welcomed the new visitors with open arms and were willing to share the bounty of their land. But years later they were virtually destroyed by the subsequent immigration that created the United States. This tragedy is the direct result of ‘governmental laws’ enforced through broken treaties, warfare with the Native Americans, and of through forced assimilation.

For Native Americans, the world after 1492 marked the beginning of the long road of persecution and genocide of Native Americans. Genocide was an important cause of the decline for many tribes. By conservative estimates, the population of the United States prior to European contact was greater than 12 million. Four centuries later, the count was reduced by 95% to 237 thousand! The Removal Act of 1830 set into motion a series of events which led to the “Trail of Tears” in 1838, a forced march of the Cherokees, resulting in the destruction of most of the Cherokee population.

I must confess that until recently I was strongly opposed to allowing illegal immigrants into our country. But God has shown me that as Christians, we have to separate our attitude toward the act of entering the country illegally from our attitude toward the illegals themselves. The first obligation of a Christian is to express godliness in all our thoughts and deeds. There is no room for hatred toward those who come into the country, (Even when it’s done illegally) desperately seeking work, refuge from danger and persecution, or a better life for themselves and their families. We are to show Christian compassion toward those who would risk their lives in a dangerous, and often fatal, attempt to cross a border. Acts of hatred or violence toward illegal aliens is never to be considered or tolerated by those who profess to be followers of Jesus.

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Mat 25:37-40)

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