Biblical Open Borders? - by Mark D. Tooley

The religious Left’s latest fad.

Pushing for open borders is the latest fad for the Religious and Evangelical Left.  The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), National Council of Churches (NCC) and United Methodist Council of Bishops have all recently chimed in, essentially endorsing New York Senator Chuck Schumer’s effort to revive the failed 2007 Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act (CIR) offering higher legal immigration and eventual amnesty for existing illegals.

Does the Bible specifically call for a virtual open borders policy and abrogation of immigration law enforcement?  Not really.  The Religious Left, now as always, selectively extracts Scripture to justify its latest political cause. Broad biblical calls for mercy and compassion always mystically mandate the Left’s most recent social and cultural demands.

The Religious Left insistence on virtual immigration law non-enforcement and near open borders often depends on mythologizing the “sojourners” of the Bible, whom liberal prelates insist were holy immigrants entitled to limitless hospitality from whatever nation they blessed with a visit.  Of course, most of these biblical sojourners had the permission of the civil authority when visiting a foreign land, as Abraham did in Egypt, until Pharaoh compelled him to leave.  The Religious Left usually forgets that part.

In typical fashion, the Religious Left on immigration law, as on so many other issues, falsely claims that Christianity has a clear political teaching.  It also chronically confuses the church’s responsibilities with the government’s, imagines that divine grace works through unlimited state welfare programs, ignores scriptural injunctions for law enforcement, neglects to distinguish morally between legal and illegal immigrants, usually avoids contrasting refugees fleeing for their lives compared to immigrants seeking economic advance, fails to admit that open U.S. borders benefits Mexicans who can walk into the country at the expense of more impoverished Asians and Africans who must wait in line, patronizingly assumes that all immigrants have the same interchangeable interests; disregards the impact of unregulated immigration on lower income Americans as well as on legal immigrants; ignores national security concerns, and insists that the American people, including its foreign born, uniquely among all  the world’s nations, must unendingly offer automatic citizenship and subsidies to a global population.

One of the least thoughtful of recent religious immigration declarations came from the United Methodist Council of Bishops earlier this year.  Swept away in their spiritual euphoria over unrestricted immigration, they insisted that “welcoming the sojourner is so vital to the expression of Christian faith that to engage in this form of hospitality is to participate in our own salvation.”

Salvation by immigration activism?  It’s a new theological twist that might raise the eyebrows of Methodist founder John Wesley.  The bishops, as supposed heirs to Wesley, insisted that “we experience redemptive liberation through relationships with migrants in our communities.”  Apparently borders do not matter.  “The solidarity we share through Christ eliminates the boundaries and barriers which exclude and isolate,” they insisted. “The sojourners we are called to love are our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters; indeed, they are us.”
Of course, the bishops conflate the church’s mission, which is to offer salvation and ministry to all in need, with the state’s divinely ordained mandate, which is to protect its population and enforce the law.   Does the civil law matter at all?  Christ thought so, when he commanded compliance with Caesar.  But the bishops avoid deep theological reflection, preferring to rhapsodize about sojourners, among whom Jesus was apparently one, since He was an infant refugee in Egypt.  Of course, the Holy Family was escaping Herod’s murderous intent, and remained in Egypt temporarily and, presumably, legally.

Revealing their far-left perspective, the bishops naturally fault the U.S. for ostensibly forcing immigrants to relocate to the U.S. “U.S. immigration policy must take into consideration the fact that today many immigrants are forced to leave their homes due to economic and foreign policies of the United States,” they matter of factly assert.  “In addition, the growing militarism along the border with Mexico further aggravates the suffering of immigrants and border communities as it exposes immigrants and communities to greater violence and mistreatment. Because of all of these circumstances immigrants are forced to live in the shadows of society to avoid being exploited thus living lives of constant fear and insecurity.”

Which U.S. “economic and foreign policies” compel immigrants to leave their homes and relocate to the U.S.?  Critics of liberalized immigration might actually agree, pointing out that lax U.S. immigration enforcement encourages Mexicans and Central Americans to abandon their own struggling communities in search of greater income in the U.S.  But presumably the United Methodist bishops, like frenzied anti-globalization protesters, mystically believe that U.S. economic and political imperialism impoverishes other nations. After all, the U.S. is the fount of most injustice in the world today, the Religious Left innately assumes.  Clearer minds might ask if Latin America would be wealthier or poorer if the U.S. did not exist as the primary historic engine of global economic growth.

The bishops reluctantly acknowledged that “all nations have the right to secure their borders,” even while condemning U.S. efforts to enforce its immigration law as “militarization.”  They committed themselves to “comprehensive immigration reform (CIR),” the code phrase for the Schumer initiative, and “affirm President Obama for his leadership in moving the immigration agenda to the forefront of public discourse and decision making.”   The bishops endorsed all the key points of CIR legislation, including a “pathway to citizenship,” wider family reunification, more worker visas, more legal rights and collective bargaining for immigrants, including the “undocumented,” and eliminating private detention centers.

Do the bishops favor any immigration restrictions or law enforcement?  They do not say, but by implication do not. Neither are they concerned about unrestricted immigration’s economic impact on low-income Americans, including legal immigrants.  Nor are they concerned about the demographically and economically corrosive impact of constant emigration on many Mexican and Central American communities. Nor do they give any special attention to refugees, including persecuted Christians, who might merit priority over economic immigrants.  Nor do they mention U.S. national security and law enforcement concerns about unrestricted immigration.  Nor do the bishops comment on the spiritual implications of widespread disregard for the law.

Instead, the United Methodist bishops, akin to similar political stances by the NCC and NAE, condescendingly liken all immigrants everywhere to noble biblical sojourners, who supposedly wondered the earth without regard for borders.  Contrary to the bishops’ mythology, all rulers, in Bible times and now, have to enforce some border law.  The kind of demographic chaos the Religious Left advocates is suitable for multicultural fantasies.  It is not deeply rooted in Christian ethical teaching or compassion.