Immigration Part 4: “They’re Breaking the Law”

In this post, I want to discuss one more response I sometimes hear Christians articulating in the midst of the immigration discussion: “They’re breaking the law. Romans 13 says we are to submit to authorities and they are not submitting. They are illegal. That settles it.”


Often, this is where the debate on this issue begins and ends. How can any dialog happen when “illegal” is the foundation for the discussion? But what if we started the discussion at a different place? What if we took a couple steps back and asked ourselves, How does the Bible inform us in terms of the laws of our land?


What might immigration policy look like if it was rooted in the whole of Scripture, not just Romans 13? What if it was rooted in each person being created in the image of God, and God’s concern for the foreigner, and Jesus’ willingness to extend compassion to outsiders like the Samaritans and others?


I’m not encouraging anyone to not respect the laws of the land but as people of God, we must continually be asking, “Are the current laws fair and just? Do they reflect the heart and compassion of God?” Even the United Government acknowledges that changes need to be made to the current system. The laws are contradictory, very confusing, and at times blatantly unjust. Are we willing to look at these issues through the lens of Scripture rather than having a knee jerk “what about illegal don’t you understand?” response?


I wonder sometimes if the “illegal” argument gets used as a smokescreen to let ourselves off the hook so we don’t have to wrestle with God’s call to love the immigrant. For instance, I’ve heard strong denunciations about offering college scholarships for undocumented children. How dare we give scholarship money to an illegal immigrant?


But let’s set the rhetoric aside for a moment and think about a specific student—Sylvia, who has lived in the US most of her life, graduated with honors, has many gifts and abilities to offer our society. But she can’t attend college because she will then be deported to a country she has never known. And she can’t get a job because she is not a citizen. So what is she to do?


I know some will say, “Send her back where she belongs,” but what does God’s word say about how to respond to her? It’s interesting how we as Christians often quote Romans 13 about submitting to authority, but just a few verses later, we read these words: “The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal’, ‘Do not covet’, and whatever other commandments there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”


Every commandment, every law, can be summed up in this one rule: Love. Now if someone is unsafe for a society, if someone robs a bank or commits violence, the loving thing is to dispense justice. That’s what our law enforcement is supposed to do. And a lot of people feel that undocumented immigrants are unsafe for our society. But is that a fair generalization?


What about the other side? Do we ever think about all that they contribute to our society? Many are working jobs most of us wouldn’t be willing to do for wages we certainly wouldn’t be willing to work for. They pick crops, they clean hotel rooms, they wash dishes…and they pay taxes, sales tax, Social security tax, even though they will never be able to collect any benefits. A New York Times article stated that undocumented immigrants contribute 7 billion dollars a year to Social Security.


I believe that as followers of Jesus, we should be leading the way with love. Part of that love means supporting attempts for immigration reform, so that the laws regarding immigration are fair and just.


I’ve resisted getting political to this point. But let me express my disappointment that some conservative politicians are now backing away from any support for immigration reform. What disappoints me more is that many of the constituents urging them to not support reform are Christians.


Wouldn’t it be cool if we as Christians were leading the way in terms of speaking up for the immigrants in our midst, making sure that our laws were fair and just, and that these people were being treated with dignity and honor?


As Christ followers our approach to this issue must be foundationally rooted in God’s heart, as expressed in the Bible. May that be what informs our attitudes and behaviors more than anything else.


  1. Grant Moen   •  

    I totally agree with all of your points. Nice job.

  2. Kelsey   •  

    I really appreciate the timing of this post as I work through many of these same discussions with my peers. You are right, too often we forget God’s heart is not just for the poor, widow and orphans, but also for the immigrant. The Evangelical Immigration Table is doing a lot of work on the reform legislation that is working its way to the floor right now, and it is encouraging to see faith leaders reclaim the call to lead by example. Please know that while many politicians are backing off as a result of their constituents view, there are more who are stepping up to the table because their constituents are finally using their voices. I think that what is needed at this point is a look at how to be a ‘prophetic voice’ on hot-topic justice issues like immigration. Thank you for your posts!

  3. Sam Fischer   •  

    While I do appreciate your perspective on immigration and am thrilled to see that you’re moving beyond “knee-jerk” reactions–at least on this topic–and into a more thoughtful response, I can’t help but wonder if one of your main motivations for treating immigrants well is because they’re willing to do manual labor: “Many are working jobs most of us wouldn’t be willing to do for wages we certainly wouldn’t be willing to work for. They pick crops, they clean hotel rooms, they wash dishes…” I’m sure that wasn’t your conscious meaning but perhaps it’s lurking there somewhere…

    These last four posts are nice and informative, but so what? What is your suggestion? What are you willing to do to roll up your sleeves and get messy? It’s very easy to sit at a keyboard or stand at a podium verbalizing things that everyone else should do, but what does this look like for you?

    • AlanKraft   •     Author

      Just curious…have I done something to offend you? I’m just trying to figure out why your comments are always so negative and abrasive, even insulting at times. I’m fine dialoging about issues, but I wish we could do so in a way that doesn’t feel like a personal attack. Is there a specific reason for the attitude towards me?

      • Sam Fischer   •  

        Oftentimes when you communicate, I hear you coming from a place that is impersonal and above the rest of us. That can be a dangerous place to be, telling others how to live while living differently privately. We all struggle with this, however. Most of your followers eagerly lap up every word you say without a second thought. I might be abrasive, at times, but that’s only because a lot of what you have to say goes down easy, yet is ultimately unfulfilling because it is so disconnected from real life. Yes, you might be theologically correct and doctrinely sound but where is the heart and soul of the gospel that you speak?

        • AlanKraft   •     Author

          Thanks for input. That is certainly not my heart in my writing. I want it to be real and to communicate authentically. I appreciate the honest feedback.

  4. Jim Rosanbalm   •  

    Thanks for your blogs on this topic. This is certainly a politically hot issue that evokes emotional reaction both in our community and nationally.

    In our current atmosphere of political polarization, it is almost easier to just walk the party line. But Christ calls us to walk a different line entirely. I consider myself a conservative, a proud American, a patriotic former Marine NCO, a Constitutionalist, and I vote Republican. Before those, however, my first allegiance is to Christ. I wrestle with this frequently because sometimes being Republican doesn’t mean being Christian, and sometimes being Christian doesn’t mean being Republican. Thanks!

    • AlanKraft   •     Author

      Great point, Jim. It is so important for us to learn what it looks like to live with our first allegiance being to Jesus alone.

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