Does the Bible say anything about illegal immigration?

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries

The most difficult thing about the illegal immigration debate is getting past the accusations of racism and discrimination so that the actual issue can be discussed. For some, the statement "I think the southern border of the United States should be securely guarded and the immigration laws strictly enforced" is equivalent to the statement "I hate Hispanics." Until we can get past this mindset, nothing is ever going to be resolved. Ad hominem attacks on those who believe immigration laws should be enforced and obeyed are successfully employed to distract from the issueŚnot solve the issue.

Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-16 are crystal clear in proclaiming that God expects us to obey governmental laws. The only instance in which civil disobedience is biblically allowable is when a law requires the believer to disobey one of God's explicit commands (Acts 5:29). There is nothing in God's Word that speaks against a nation having and enforcing immigration laws. Therefore, it is a sin, rebellion against God, to enter another country illegally.

Should the United States have a more liberal immigration policy? Probably so. We are a nation of immigrants after all. Everyone who lives in the United States of America is an immigrant or a descendant of immigrants. My great-great-grandparents immigrated to the United States in the 1800s. The Native Americans immigrated to this land many centuries ago. Over a million people legally immigrate to the United States every year.

But, ultimately, that question misses the point. It does not matter if the United States should have a more liberal immigration policy. As long as the immigration law does not violate God's Word, and it does not, it should be obeyed. If a law is not compassionate enough, it should be changed. However, disobeying the laws you do not like or believe are unfair is a recipe for disaster and chaos. More importantly, that disobedience is unbiblical.

In the United States, the topic of illegal immigration is almost always focused on immigration from the south: Mexico, Central America, and South America. This distinction does cause the issue to become racially charged. Personally, I am just as opposed to illegal immigration from Canada as I am to illegal immigration from Mexico. I do not care if the person is Hispanic, Caucasian, African, Asian, or Indian. I do not care if the person climbs a fence, swims a river, sneaks aboard a boat, or parachutes from an airplane. They are required by the government to use legal means to enter the country.

Usually lost in the immigration debate is the fact there are millions of people from Africa, Europe, and Asia who are patiently waiting in line, obeying the immigration laws. They do not have the advantage of a relatively porous border they can simply sneak across. Many people in other parts of the world are very resentful, even spiteful, toward anyone who enters the United States illegally. Illegal immigration makes it even more difficult for legitimate, legal immigrants to have their shot at the American dream.

I am grateful to be an American. I have traveled internationally enough that I understand why so many people long to come to the United States. I have seen the devastating poverty in parts of Mexico, Central America, and South America. I truly want many, many more people to be able to legally immigrate to the United States and have the opportunity to provide for their families while living in a free and prosperous society. But I see absolutely no biblical justification for entering another country illegally. Nowhere does the Bible speak positively of lawbreakers.

The Apostles Paul and Peter wrote Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-16 during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero, perhaps the most wicked, evil, and oppressive of all the Roman emperors. And they told us to submit to, honor, and respect the government. The biblical view on illegal immigration is that it is wrong to disobey governmental lawsŚno matter the skin color, no matter the country of origin, no matter the method, no matter the reason.

For more information about illegal immigration and the Bible, please read the following articles at

Image Credit: Jonathan McIntosh; "El Paso Crossing Art"; Creative Commons

TagsControversial-Issues  | Political-Issues

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Published 6/18/14