Why Christians should speak with one voice on immigration

Last Friday President Obama announced that his administration would decline to deport undocumented people under the age of 30 who had entered the country before the age of 16 as long as they met certain requirements. Those eligible may also apply for temporary work permits.

I hope all Christians, on both the right and the left, will applaud Obama’s action as a just, fair way to treat these people who are made in the image of God. The residents who will benefit from Obama’s action were children when they entered the United States. They did no wrong. Moreover, they do not have any other place to call home.

Still, critics have offered three primary arguments against Obama’s announcement. 

First, some say that giving work permits to these residents will harm job prospects for returning veterans. This is an important concern, but at the moment there is little evidence that it is true. According to the U.S. Defense Department, unemployment for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars stands at 7.6, down from 12.5 percent last year and lower than the 8.3 percent unemployment rate of other Americans. In fact, one could even argue that Obama’s policy is taking advantage of this particular group of undocumented residents. One oft-cited UCLA study suggests that people who qualify for DREAM Act-like programs are likely to contribute $1.4 to $3.6 trillion to the U.S. economy during their lives. Like many Americans, they are smart, hard-working and dedicated. In the future they are more likely to create jobs than they are to use social services.

Second, some argue that this approach will increase illegal immigration because people will have an incentive to bring their families into the country with the hope that their children will one day qualify for citizenship. This concern would be valid if illegal immigration into the U.S. were on the upswing. However, the net migration flow of Mexicans into the country has stopped and some reports suggest it is even reversing. Stronger border patrol efforts and stronger deportation efforts targeted particularly at criminals have significantly decreased the flow of undocumented people into the country.

Third, there is the argument that President Obama has undercut both Congress and the upcoming Supreme Court decision with his executive action. It is true that a Christian understanding of a just government has to take into account the rule of law, which in the United States means being attentive to separation of powers and to federalism. If Obama had used the power of the executive order to pass a DREAM Act, he would have circumvented the important debate that our representatives need to engage in as they pass laws that rely on the people’s acceptance for their legitimacy.

However, Obama did not use the executive order. His act is one of “prosecutorial discretion.” In every jurisdiction, those charged with enforcing the law have to make hard decisions about how to use their resources. We have never had sufficient police, prosecutors, judges or jails to apprehend and punish every person that breaks a law. Prosecutors have always had to prioritize the law enforcement activity in their jurisdictions, and Obama, as the chief law enforcer of the country, has directed his agents to decline to prosecute this particular group. Instead, they will be concentrating on deporting those who are more dangerous to our communities.

This upcoming election cycle is going to be divisive and polarizing, but this is an opportunity for American Christians. It’s an opportunity for us to say that despite political differences, in this instance we speak with one voice. We support the law-abiding youth who will benefit from Obama’s decision.

What Do You Think?

  • Is immigration a topic on which Christians should clearly agree?
  • What legitimate differences might exist?
  • Does Obama’s announcement emphasize the imago dei of immigrants or does it simply see them as a resource for the United States to exploit?


Comments (8)

Leave a Comment

I support the spirit of what President Obama is pushing for here. I’m not sure I agree with how it’s being done, but I agree with the policy in general.

However, should the Christian church unite on politics when we so often struggle with unifying on doctrine? Which is more important - doctrine or politics for the church? I’d say we need to work on the things that the church is absolutely responsible for and then move on from there.

You are right to suggest Christians should love, care for, look after the welfare of the immigrant. All Christians should agree to that, and live lives of self-sacrificial love that demonstrate that.

However, I think perhaps the only place there really is “such a thing as secular” is the locus of government. Any attempt to suggest there is a “Christian” way to legislate is missing the point of cross-born King who explicitly defined his Kingdom was “not of this world.”

As such, I appreciate what these folks are doing:


If you’re interested in where I’m getting this perspective, below are links to Greg Boyd’s sermon series called “The Cross and the Sword.” It completely changed my perspective on the relationship between Christianity and government. The series, in order, is as follows:


I agree with both Bob and Adam on this, but I believe that you left out one of the reasons for critical abrasive reaction to his gesture…  Guaranteed votes for the upcoming election.  All of those “citizens” would immediately return the favor for the stay of grace once in the voting booth.  The timing is far too sinister for this to have just been pertinent now.

Also, the Mexican yield in American entrance is because they can find just as much work there as here, on top of the fact that they can stay with their families.  You’re correct when you say that their continued immigration won’t be an issue…  After Jesse Jackson, Jr. lobbies hard enough to raise the minimum wage, even our lowest income revenue sources will be overburdened.  They will lack the resources themselves to provide the number of jobs that they once did, since they will have to pay more to man their businesses. 
There has always been a correct way to enter the country.  This way just creates more voters with incentive to show the current executive their appreciation.

Immigration is a tough issue.  On one hand you have the parents who are living their lives with little integrity.  On the other hand you have the children who don’t have a say in what their parents do - for the most part.

But the truth is, once you become 18, you’re no longer a child.  You need to take responsibility for yourself and bring some integrity to your life.  This is Christianity.  So if you’re not living here legally - you need to fix that by taking the steps to legalize your residency or go back where you came from.

In the end Obama’s thinking here only promotes more crime.

“All of those ‘citizens’ would immediately return the favor for the stay of grace once in the voting booth. The timing is far too sinister for this to have just been pertinent now.”

That’s just plain false. The people affected by this order are *not* citizens; if they were, then this order wouldn’t be necessary, since American citizens weren’t subject to deportation before this executive order was given. Furthermore, the executive order is explicit in *not* giving a path to citizenship to those it affects—so they *can’t* vote in the upcoming election.

“They will lack the resources themselves to provide the number of jobs that they once did, since they will have to pay more to man their businesses.”

Only if you believe business’s lies. American business last year, in the midst of some of the worst times in recent memory for real working Americans, made record profits for its shareholders.

Our system is set up in such a way that shareholders are considered the only people with a stake in a business; decisions are made based on shareholder value alone. The ways in which a business’s decisions will impact the workers, community, or nation, or the planet we all share, aren’t considered.

What would it look like if public corporations, in order to get charters, had to have significant representation from the business’s workforce, from local communities, and from the American people on their Boards of Directors? What would it look like if *everyone* who was affected by a business’s decisions had a say in those decisions, rather than just those representing one interest group?

Why is it that the decisions made by the most powerful interests in this country of, for, and by the people, are the decisions the people have the least say in?

“But the truth is, once you become 18, you’re no longer a child. You need to take responsibility for yourself and bring some integrity to your life. This is Christianity.”

That’s Christianity? I must have missed that in my Bible. Was that in between Christ crucified for our sins and raised on the third day according to the scriptures?

If you are truly interested in decreasing unemployment, you would be advocating doing anything that would make it cheaper to hire workers.  Like eliminating the minimum wage.  Like eliminating any law that makes it riskier or more expensive to hire workers.  That would solve unemployment.

“Make it cheaper to hire workers” means “give employers license to pay their workers less, give them fewer benefits, or make them less safe in the workplace”—putting workers in a race to the bottom and increasing the already-record profits of the “owners” even more.

How about instead, we make it more expensive *not* to hire American workers, by implementing tariffs for any country with minimum wage and workplace safety standards that are lower than US standards, and eliminating any tax breaks for offshoring?

Further, if *you* are truly interested in decreasing unemployment, you’ll support shoring up the single largest contributor to the current unemployment rate—the massive loss of public-sector jobs like teachers, firefighters, and police officers. Not only will that help our economy, it’ll help our society.

Loading More Comments


Leave a comment, Guest

You are welcome to leave a comment, guest. Please note, all comments are moderated by our staff. Your name and email address are required fields.
You are encouraged to create an account for additional benefits.

Why create an account?
* denotes required field.
Image Type: jpg, gif, or png.
Max file size: 50kb. Max dimensions: 100px by 100px.

See the latest in: