The increased media coverage, combined with the presidential decision to send troops to the border in preparation for an expected increase in illegal migration, raises an important question to Catholics. How should Christians view this border crisis? There is a division in opinion regarding the continued wave of illegal migration and, I dare say, most responses by Church leadership are more politically and selfishly motivated as opposed to Biblically accurate and aligning with truth.
I agree the United States is a country that should embrace those from other countries who are seeking a better life. I support all efforts from Christians to provide valuable and needed resources for these individuals to obtain such a life legally and responsibly. There are countless individuals and families who have done that through all the legal and required means set in place by our country. The dismissal, and subsequent advocacy for violation, of these laws causes me to go back to Sacred Scripture which, indeed, shows that God and the ancient Jews respected borders. The Church should be a haven of hope and needed assistance. It should not, however, be a banner for breaking the law, and there is no such truth that accurately teaches this belief that is grounded in the Bible. We will get into Scripture evidence to support borders in a moment. First, I want to paint a realistic picture for you.
Imagine for a moment that you are barely getting by financially each month. Your bills are paid monthly without much left over, and your three children are living with you. You happily feed, clothe, and provide shelter for your children even though it stretches your paycheck to the rim. Now, what would happen if 10 individuals from Ukraine showed up on your doorstep and asked to stay with you because they had no money, shelter, or resources? Would you allow 10 strangers into your home and feed them, clothe them, and provide shelter for them while causing you to take out loans to pay for it all? Would you go deeper into debt to provide for the care and wellbeing of total strangers? The likely answer is you would not. You are likely not going to allow 10 random people from another country that you know nothing about to live in your home with your family and children. That’s also why we have locks on our doors and lock our homes when we leave—because we want to keep strangers out of our homes. We want to maintain safe borders for our family and our homes.
The reality is this country is $30.93 trillion dollars in debt. There is a current debate happening right now between Congress and President Biden over raising the debt ceiling. In other words, the argument is over whether to take out more loans to pay our bills. Most would agree that immigrants who cross our borders illegally are without shelter, food, money, and resources. What happens when the government begins to provide welfare resources for them? The government goes deeper into debt. What happens when the government is deeper into debt? The government begins cutting programs that are helpful American citizens, such as Medicare and the military.
Back to our scenario of the strangers showing up at your door—the chances are high that you would not accept them into your home and provide all they need because you do not have the financial resources. Most people would send them to the church or other humanitarian and non-profit organization to receive help. The referral to those resources would work for 10. Would these agencies and churches be able to manage thousands upon thousands of individuals within days? I dare say they would not. However, even if they did, what are the majority of these organizations and churches doing to help them? They are assisting them in getting on government welfare and other programs that provide financial and housing assistance. That is all good…..unless your already well past your eyeballs in debt as a country.
Now, let’s take a brief look at Scripture and what the Bible says about borders and respect for government. Moses was leading the Israelites from torture and maltreatment from the Egyptians. “From Kadesh Moses sent men to the king of Edom with the message: ‘Your brother Israel has this to say: You know of all the hardships that have befallen us, how our fathers went down to Egypt, where we stayed a long time, how the Egyptians maltreated us and our fathers, and how, when we cried to the Lord, he heard our cry and sent an angel who led us out of Egypt. Now here we are at the town of Kadesh at the edge of your territory. Kindly let us pass through your country. We will not cross any fields or vineyards, nor drink any well water, but we will go straight along the royal road without turning to the right or to the left, until we have passed through your territory. But Edom answered him, ‘You shall not pass through here; if you do, I will advance against you with the sword.’ The Israelites insisted, ‘We want only to go up along the highway. If we or our livestock drink any of your water, we will pay for it. Surely there is no harm in merely letting us march through.’ But Edom still said ‘No, you shall not pass through,’ and advanced against them with a large and heavily armed force. Therefore, since Edom refused to let them pass through their territory, Israel detoured around them.” (Numbers 20:14-21)
Moses did not demand Edom to allow them to pass through the territory. In fact, pay attention to the fact that all the Israelites wanted to do was pass through the area. They were not even planning on staying and did not even want to take anything from Edom. They simply wanted to use the road to take a quicker route to where they were going, but Edom denied them. As a result, they respected the authority and borders of Edom and went another way. The Israelites were fleeing maltreatment and persecution as well, yet they still respected borders and asked for permission to enter the land before doing so.
Fast forward to the New Testament (for those who want to argue ‘well that’s in the Old Testament) and St. Paul writes in Romans, ‘let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2) St. Paul clearly has the expectation that we are to obey government leaders. He did not give any exceptions, such as if we like the laws or not or if we agree politically or not with them. In fact, he does not even give an exception for if they are good rulers or not. He says we are expected to obey them.
One more brief commentary on the allegation and attempted justification of illegal immigration by stating that Mary and Joseph were refugees when they fled Bethlehem for Egypt because the life of baby Jesus was in danger. Yes, it is true Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt as we are told in Sacred Scripture. What those utilizing this story as an analogy for illegal immigration and refugees ignore is the fact that Mary and Joseph were NOT illegal immigrants to Egypt, and they were NOT refugees. At the time Mary and Joseph fled with baby Jesus, Egypt and Bethlehem were both under the Roman Empire. As a result, this does not make Mary and Joseph refugees or illegal immigrants. Although Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Egypt and the whole territory had their own rulers, it did not mean they were illegal immigrants or refugees. In fact, it would be the same as someone fleeing from California for fear or persecution or if their life is in danger and going to reside in Arkansas. The local governments are different, but the total country (“empire”) is the same. No illegal immigration occurs from one area of the ‘empire’ to another. It would also be the same as if one were to flee New York because of fear the state’s laws would persecute and endanger their lives and the individual goes to live in Puerto Rico. Although not a state, Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States and, as such, the person would not be a refugee.
I suspect that for those Church leaders who are speaking out wanting more flexibility and leniency regarding illegal immigration have their own motives and agendas. I am not sure if it is a desire to increase the numbers for the Catholic Church (since the Church has been bleeding members and most of those from Mexico are traditionally Catholic) or if it is for political purposes (which is highly likely). Regardless of the reason, the truth is that promulgation of illegal immigration with no respect to laws or borders is simply unable to be backed up by Sacred Scripture. If we are to be people of the Bible, then we must be people of the Bible in every area of life, not just when it suits our political agendas or personal motives.