Most of the politically-charged immigration talk misses the crux of the matter. There are two key issues involved in immigration: (1) the right to emigrate and (2) the purpose of borders. If we properly understood (and implemented) these two concepts, the immigration “crisis” in America would be solved.
1. The Right to Emigrate
To emigrate is to leave your country; to immigrate is to enter another country to live. R.J. Rushdoony provocatively asserts: “The right to emigrate is not normally conceived of as a right, but in terms of American constitutional background, it has an important status as a right.” Specifically as it relates to the states, Rushdoony argues that limiting the ability to emigrate is detrimental to liberty. Prior to the federal takeover of the states (which began with Alexander Hamilton and finally reached its culmination with Lincoln’s unconstitutional dictatorship during the Civil War), states retained significant freedom to enact their own laws and statutes. As such, citizens who became weary of their state’s (unjust) laws, could freely move to another state. (And remember, the states viewed themselves as sovereign states.) This idea of freely leaving one’s nation state and entering another has a rich tradition in Judaeo-Christian history:
- Abraham emigrating from Ur and immigrating to Canaan
- Jacob and his sons immigrating to Egypt
- Moses and the people immigrating back to the land of Canaan
- Various foreigners immigrating to the land of Israel (Leviticus 19:34)
- Persecuted Christians leaving Jerusalem (some temporarily, some probably permanently) after Stephen’s martyrdom (Acts 8:1)
- The Pilgrim Separatists immigrating to Holland
- The Pilgrim Separatists immigrating to America
- The Puritans, following shortly after the Pilgrims, immigrating to America
In some of these cases the people faced opposition to leaving. For example, both Pharaoh and King James wanted to deny the people to right to emigrate. Pharaoh attempted to prevent the people of Israel from leaving Egypt. King James similarly sought to keep the Christian Separatists from fleeing to Holland. In both cases, the government ruler went beyond the God-given duty of magistrates: punishing evil-doers and praising those who do good (1 Peter 2:14). Christian thought affirms the right of these people to freely leave their country and enter another one.
2. The Purpose of Borders
Some people may be getting uneasy at this point. Are borders then useless, if people are free to emigrate when they wish? No, borders are not useless. However, people have fundamentally misunderstood the purpose of borders. A nation’s borders are meant to delineate where the law of the land (and the magistrates) has jurisdiction. The key verse for this whole immigration discussion is Leviticus 24:22: “You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the Lord your God.” The problem in America is not that other people are coming into our nation. The problem is that we are abandoning biblical law. If we had one law (biblical law), we could focus on enforcing that, rather than focusing on the futile attempt to keep people out of our nation because they did not jump through all the governmental and bureaucratic hoops that have been created.
The current “law” or “rule” of our land has brought us the following: abortion, homosexual “marriage,” and the welfare state. With the state America is in now, where we have mass murder being carried out on unborn children (legally) and we exalt wicked behavior such as homosexual practices, we are a horrible example to other nations. The magistrate is tasked to punish evil. Abortion (murder), theft, rape, sexual perversion—these are among the limited things the magistrate should be focused on. Leaving one nation and entering another is nowhere defined as evil in the Bible. Therefore, it is not the magistrate’s role to punish those who emigrate/immigrate.
The Christian Solution
If we really want to be a light to the nations, we need to submit to Jesus Christ, abandon the welfare state, and practice righteousness according to God’s Word, not majority opinion. Then America would truly be a city on a hill. Then we could open our doors to the oppressed in other lands—who would come to America not because of the welfare state, but because of our loyalty to Christ and His Law.
Think about it. If the United States were known as a land where evil is punished, would criminals be eager to migrate here? Of course not. If the United States were known as a place where one is required to work hard to succeed, rather than a place where you can live off of the government, would lazy people want to migrate here? Of course not. Remember, in the case of the immigrants listed above (Abraham, Moses, Separatists), all of them knew they would have to work and provide for themselves in the new land they were entering. None of them were seeking to enter a welfare state.
There are generally four reasons people oppose immigration:
- Criminals will come in
- Lazy, welfare-seeking people will come in
- Jobs will be taken from us
- Our values will be deteriorated
I have already addressed the first two points: if we enforce biblical law, why would criminals want to come here? If we abandoned the welfare state, why would lazy people want to come here?
What about the objection that jobs will be taken from us? Free market economics teaches us that working people add wealth to society, they don’t subtract it. The more wealth there is in a nation, the more jobs there will be. Hard-working immigrants add wealth and jobs to a nation.
But what of our values? Again, this takes us back to biblical law. As it stands, our values are fast deteriorating because of our own decisions as a nation. We need no “help” from immigrants to exalt sinfulness and folly. If we stood upon the foundation of God’s Word and exalted Christ’s name, we would be a land of liberty and law.
We have two options. We can keep heavily taxing the citizens to support a bureaucracy that is tasked with making sure people migrate “legally.” Or we can focus on what will actually solve the problem: enforcing justice and righteousness in our land.
As I have pointed out, I do not believe biblical law assigns the magistrate the authority to keep people in or out of a nation (this obviously doesn’t mean that in a defensive war you allow enemy troops to enter your nation). It is not feasible to control the migration of people. A simple look at the history of the world will demonstrate that people motivated to immigrate will find a way in. Why not focus on what is clearly the role of the magistrate (i.e. punishing evildoers according to biblical standards)? Incidentally, this is what will also solve the immigration problem. If we enforce biblical justice and shrink government to its proper size and eliminate the welfare state, the types of people who will want to migrate here will be the following:
- People who do not want to murder, rape, steal, or pervert human sexuality
- People who want to work hard to provide for their families
It was once the goal of many Christians that America would be a city shining upon a hill, a beacon of justice and liberty to the world. Just as the people of Israel were reminded that “you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt,” we too should welcome and love anyone who wants to come here, always maintaining that there shall be “one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you” (Exodus 12:49). Let’s make sure that law is biblical law, not humanistic law.