Illegal immigration is a volatile issue in many parts of the world. There is fervent passion and claimed biblical support on both sides. The vast majority of illegal immigrants are people who are seeking safety and/or greater economic opportunity for themselves and/or their families. This leads to a struggle. As Christians, what should be our priority? Promoting submission to the rule of law or compassionate care for the less fortunate?
Please read our articles on illegal immigration and refugees. In summary, based on Romans 13:1–7 and 1 Peter 2:13–14, we are convinced that it is a sin to violate a nation’s immigration laws. Should prosperous nations have compassionate immigration laws? Absolutely. At the same time, there is nothing in the Bible that contradicts a nation’s setting and enforcing its own immigration policy. Since immigration laws do not violate God’s Word, it is therefore wrong to trespass those laws. Regardless of emotional appeals and mitigating circumstances, the initial act of coming into a country illegally is sin.
At the same time, as Christians, we have to separate our attitude toward the act of entering the country illegally from our attitude toward illegal immigrants themselves. Illegal immigrants are individuals who are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26), and for whom Jesus died (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). The first obligation of a Christian is to express Christlikeness in all our thoughts, words, and deeds (Romans 8:29). There is no room for hatred toward illegal immigrants who seek work, refuge from danger and persecution, or a better life for themselves and their families. Christian compassion must be shown toward those who would risk their lives in a dangerous attempt to cross a border. Acts of hatred or violence toward illegal immigrants are never to be tolerated by those who name the name of Christ.
How should a Christian respond to illegal immigrants? The same way we respond to anyone else—love and compassion. The Bible is filled with instructions to demonstrate care for the poor, destitute, and distressed (Exodus 22:21; Matthew 25:31–45; Galatians 2:10; James 1:27; 2:15–16). While we should never do anything to promote, enable, or excuse illegal immigration; we should do everything we possibly can to demonstrate the love of Christ to the illegal immigrants themselves.