Divine Wisdom on Sovereign Borders: A Biblical View of Illegal Immigration

silhouette of barbwire during sunset

Let’s begin by clarifying that Jesus was not a refugee. Joseph and Mary’s departure for Egypt, which was another part of the Roman Empire (Matt 2:13–14), did not warrant any special recognition. Additionally, it is worth noting that they had the means to travel on their own, courtesy of the gifts from the Magi (Matt 2:11). After Herod’s death, they returned to their place of origin (Matt 2:19–21). This distinction is important to establish upfront, as it sets the tone for this article. The purpose here is to provide factual information from a biblical standpoint while minimizing reliance on emotional arguments. Doing so allows us to delve into the subject matter with clarity and objectivity.

The debate surrounding illegal immigration often relies on emotionally charged narratives, which has made it a divisive issue for decades. This contentious topic continues to create a significant divide among people and elicits strong reactions from various perspectives. Many individuals who advocate for illegal immigrants emphasize compassion and humanitarianism. They believe that everyone deserves the right to live better lives and that crossing borders illegally should not be a barrier to that. Others, however, stress the importance of following the rule of law and protecting the nation’s sovereignty against outside threats.

The issues of illegal immigration encompass various complex factors, including economic impacts such as labor market dynamics, fiscal effects, and remittances. Additionally, national security concerns involve border control, criminal activities, and potential terrorist threats. As Christians, it is vital to consider the issue of illegal immigration from a biblical worldview when assessing the government’s role and responsibilities as well as the expectations of its citizens.

Border Crisis vs Constitutional Crisis

The challenge of addressing illegal immigrants has persisted for decades. This reality becomes more pronounced with each election cycle. For instance, former President Donald Trump promised to “build that wall” along the border. In contrast, his successor, Joe Biden, conveyed a different message to migrants attempting to enter the U.S. illegally. Although this message may have been ambiguous to American citizens, it resonated clearly with those in foreign nations, prompting an unprecedented surge of people making their way to the United States.

To grasp the sheer magnitude of 6.3 million people entering the United States illegally, consider this: that number surpasses the combined populations of Wyoming, Vermont, the District of Columbia, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, and Montana.

Since the time Joe Biden assumed office, the border has experienced historically high levels of migrant encounters with the federal US Border Patrol. In January 2021, there were 1.7 million encounters, rising to 2.3 million in 2022 and 2.4 million in 2023. Fiscal year 2024 is set to exceed the previous three years of encounters. In contrast, during the Biden administration (2021–2023), the US Border Patrol encountered an unprecedented 6.3 million illegal immigrants, whereas in the preceding Trump administration (2017–2019), the encounter count stood at 1.5 million.

To grasp the sheer magnitude of 6.3 million people entering the United States illegally, consider this: that number surpasses the combined populations of Wyoming, Vermont, the District of Columbia, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, and Montana.

The US Border Patrol processes the significant influx of illegal immigrants, permitting the vast majority of them to reside in the United States until their immigration court hearing. The existing immigration court backlog stands at 3.3 million cases. During this waiting period, migrants are employed and live in the United States.

In an effort to reduce the number of illegal immigrants crossing the border, Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the Texas National Guard to strategically position concertina wire in key border areas. Shelby Park, a 47-acre parkland along the Rio Grande River in downtown Eagle Pass, Texas, is a major entry point for illegal immigrants. So, in October 2023, Gov. Abbott instructed the Texas National Guard to place 70,000 rolls of concertina wire there.

Tensions escalated between Texas State Governor Abbott and the federal Border Patrol as the agents began cutting the concertina wires, claiming it hindered their movement and ability to assist migrants in distress. The State of Texas fought back, bringing a lawsuit to federal court and sparking a debate on state sovereignty vs. federal intervention. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the federal government, affirming federal agents’ access to Shelby Park.

After the Supreme Court decision on January 26, reports suggest that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requested permission for federal agents to enter Shelby Park. The request was denied, and Governor Abbott responded in a statement, writing,

Under President Biden’s lawless border policies, more than 6 million illegal immigrants have crossed our southern border in just 3 years. That is more than the population of 33 different States in this country. This illegal refusal to protect the States has inflicted unprecedented harm on the People all across the United States.

James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and the other visionaries who wrote the U.S. Constitution foresaw that States should not be left to the mercy of a lawless president who does nothing to stop external threats like cartels smuggling millions of illegal immigrants across the border. That is why the Framers included both Article IV, § 4, which promises that the federal government “shall protect each [State] against invasion,” and Article I, § 10, Clause 3, which acknowledges “the States’ sovereign interest in protecting their borders.”

The failure of the Biden Administration to fulfill the duties imposed by Article IV, § 4 has triggered Article I, § 10, Clause 3, which reserves to this State the right of self-defense. For these reasons, I have already declared an invasion under Article I, § 10, Clause 3 to invoke Texas’s constitutional authority to defend and protect itself. That authority is the supreme law of the land and supersedes any federal statutes to the contrary. The Texas National Guard, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and other Texas personnel are acting on that authority, as well as state law, to secure the Texas border.

https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/press/Border_Statement_1.24.2024.pdf

After Governor Abbott’s statement, twenty-five Republican governors showed support by issuing a joint statement, writing,

“President Biden and his Administration have left Americans and our country completely vulnerable to unprecedented illegal immigration pouring across the Southern border. Instead of upholding the rule of law and securing the border, the Biden Administration has attacked and sued Texas for stepping up to protect American citizens from historic levels of illegal immigrants, deadly drugs like fentanyl, and terrorists entering our country.

We stand in solidarity with our fellow Governor, Greg Abbott, and the State of Texas in utilizing every tool and strategy, including razor wire fences, to secure the border. We do it in part because the Biden Administration is refusing to enforce immigration laws already on the books and is illegally allowing mass parole across America of migrants who entered our country illegally.”

https://governor.iowa.gov/press-release/2024-01-25/gov-reynolds-24-republican-governors-joint-statement-supporting-state-texas-constitutional-right

Is America racist?

With the exception of Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont, who remains the lone Republican holdout, the decision to limit federal overreach has the support of 25 state governors. If there are some who instinctively label any policy that restricts immigration as racist, it can be argued that, as measured by that criterion, America is the least racist nation in the world.

Since 1970, America has been the primary destination for migrants worldwide. Furthermore, no other country takes in more immigrants. When looking closely at America, the report on global migration notes that the number of foreign-born people in the country has increased more than fourfold, from fewer than 12 million in 1970 to more than 50 million in 2020. The biggest groups of migrants came from Mexico (10,853,105), India (2,723,764), China (2,184,110), the Philippines (2,061,178), and El Salvador (1,410,659).

Germany comes in at a distant second, with fewer than half the number of foreign-born individuals residing in the country. The magnanimity of native-born Americans and their willingness to shoulder the burdens of others are indisputable.

Given the assumption of American philanthropy, the issue arises as to whether Americans should expect their elected federal government to safeguard their borders, a duty they themselves have entrusted to the said government. This is the same government that approved 113.4 billion in aid to assist Ukraine in defending its border.

Are borders biblical?

When contemplating the concept of borders or boundaries for a people or nation, it is essential to examine scripture. What we find are numerous references in the Old Testament that discuss lands and their boundaries (Exodus 23:31, Numbers 34:1–3, Ezekiel 47:13–21). Notably, Abraham was given a promise of land (Genesis 15:18–21), and its boundaries were clearly defined.

Moreover, in Athens, Paul explained the order of creation, proclaiming, “From one man, He (God) made every nation of mankind to inhabit the face of the earth. He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). This passage not only appeals to the inherent divine nature within humanity (Imago Dei) but also to the notion that each individual has a designated and specific dwelling place.

Scripture reveals that after the dispersion at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1–9), the people were appointed diverse languages and consequently started congregating with their respective groups. This divine intervention by God was intended to foster separation among people and establish distinct boundaries for their dwelling places. By delving into these scriptures, we gain valuable insights into the significance of borders.

Alongside boundaries, God instituted governing authorities to safeguard people from wrongdoing and evil. These authorities serve as a protective shield, ensuring the well-being and security of the people. Paul writes, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Romans 13:1–2).

A Failure of Epic Proportions

Considering that the purpose of government is to safeguard its citizens, the Biden administration has exhibited a failure of epic proportions. In the history of our nation, there has never been such a significant influx of six million people entering the country illegally within such a short span of time.

The Biden administration’s failure to manage and secure the nation’s borders effectively is a breach of trust with the American people. This has significant repercussions, straining social services and resources. Illegal immigration threatens national security and the rule of law, fostering a culture that undermines legal entry and fairness for those who follow legal channels for citizenship.

States face the federal government’s shortcomings in dealing with challenges that impact communities. Meeting demands from an unexpected population influx overwhelms schools, healthcare facilities, and public services. Local governments innovate in real time to mitigate issues without corresponding federal support. The financial burden on states is enormous while navigating complex immigration policies and maintaining public service standards for all citizens.

Furthermore, increasing crime rates in certain areas have become linked to illegal border crossings. Law enforcement agencies face challenges in maintaining public safety due to the surge in criminal activity related to illegal immigration. Transnational gangs and drug trafficking are the additional consequences of weak border security. This creates an atmosphere of unease, undermining community trust and highlighting the government’s failure to protect its citizens effectively.

Conclusion

As Christians, it is vital to consider the issue of illegal immigration from a biblical worldview when assessing the government’s role and responsibilities as well as our expectations as citizens.

It’s clear that while politicians may often use the complexities of immigration policy to position themselves as bearers of solutions, the Christian perspective calls for a Biblical approach. It is incumbent upon believers to sift through political rhetoric and align with those genuinely striving for reform that reflects both moral integrity and respect for human dignity. As believers who value justice and mercy, it is our responsibility to recognize that policies have tangible effects on individuals and families, especially those in the United States who bear the heavy burden of mass immigration.

Moreover, as we acknowledge that illegal immigration is a violation of the law, we must not lose sight of the humanity inherent in these immigrants. They are individuals—men, women, and children—who possess an intrinsic value and worth bestowed upon them by God. This necessitates a form of response from both the government and its citizens that safeguards the rights of all, upholds the rule of law, and embodies compassion and grace.

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Virgil Walker

Vice President of Ministry Relations G3 Ministries

Virgil L. Walker is the Vice President of Ministry Relations for G3 Ministries, an author, and a conference speaker. He is the co-host of the Just Thinking Podcast and a contributor to Fearless with Jason Whitlock. Virgil has a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Theological Studies from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Virgil and his wife, Tomeka, have three children. Listen to his podcast here.