The immigration crisis at our Southern border is perceived as a security crisis. Perhaps it is. But it is also a political crisis. It points up the need for a comprehensive, humane and workable immigration policy, suited to our national interest.
It is a diplomatic crisis raising questions about U.S. policy toward neighboring countries in Latin America. In some of these countries, gang violence, human trafficking, dismal living conditions, and sometimes authoritarian governments, exploit the people. These factors prompt thousands of them to become desperate migrants, risking their lives and their children’s lives on a journey to the north.
No person of compassion can fail to be moved by the plight of these refugees. If we still believe that human rights are a foundation of our American national character, then we will see this crisis as a humanitarian crisis.
Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, dated July 4, 1776, wrote the “self-evident” truth that all people are “created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” especially the right to life and freedom. This is a reason we speak of American exceptionalism and greatness.
This understanding of human dignity is rooted in the teachings of the Bible. It says God created mankind in his own image. Human rights are derived from the fact that human beings bear the image of God. This is what it means to be human. Human rights, dignity, and equality are bestowed by our Maker, not by any government.
If we believe and live by the Bible, this truth will influence our opinions about foreign policy, criminal justice, the rights of the unborn, economic policy, and the platforms of presidential candidates. These same biblical values should, I believe, also guide our thinking about immigration and the refugee crisis.
Jesus quoted the Hebrew scriptures when he taught us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Leviticus 19:18 is just one of many teachings given to Israel that are carried forward into Christian teaching (Galatians 5:14). Justice and compassion for foreigners were priorities of the laws given through Moses.
For example, the words of Deuteronomy 10:18-19 are restated in different ways throughout the Bible: “He (God) defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you. … And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”
Jesus teaches his followers that it is he whom they are serving when they show hospitality to strangers (Matthew 25:35). If this Christian ethic governs our lives as individuals, then it makes sense to me that this same value system should influence our national policy. After all, we are a government “of the people,” and it is the beliefs of the people that inform our response to issues like border control and immigration.
So the wisdom of the Bible provides us with a way of thinking about immigrants and refugees. Of course, we should be concerned about border security and the rule of law. This too is a moral issue. But obsessive fear, ethnic bigotry, and inflammatory rhetoric are contrary to the Christian way of living.
Those who are willing to be guided by the teachings of the Bible will recognize that immigrants have the same God-given human rights and dignity as those who were born here. Whatever conclusions “we the people” come to about immigration policy and the humanitarian crisis at our Southern border, should be influenced by these truths.