The issue of illegal immigration and Christian hospitality seems to be a fickle one. On one hand, we must support our government in preventing illegal immigration (as this can help keep down on crime from gangs coming over illegally) and because we don’t want to get overcrowded and create the situation the immigrants are attempting to escape. At the same time, as Christians we are to treat all people like our neighbors, especially those that are oppressed. Certainly our Mexican neighbors are oppressed; they can’t turn to their government for help (due to the corruption), they can’t turn to the local police for help (due to the corruption), and the drug cartel kidnaps and kills seemingly anyone they want to and is attempting to intimidate the populace into submission. We must take compassion on such a plight and be a bit more understanding when Mexicans want to come over to the United States.
So what are Christians to do with anti-illegal immigration laws enacted by the states, specifically the law in Alabama? Some would argue that Romans 13 seemingly traps the Christian into submitting to the law, no matter the consequence. The idea behind such thinking is that unless the government is directly asking you to violate God’s law, you have no reason to go against the government. But this line of reasoning fails. First, segregation doesn’t directly violate any Biblical principle (though it indirectly violates the concept of the imago Dei), yet we wouldn’t call for capitulation to segregation. Secondly, helping illegal immigrants is a Biblical concept.
In Matthew 25:35, Jesus is talking about those He knows. We know the famous passage, that when He was thirsty we gave Him a drink, when He was hungry we gave Him food. It concludes that, “You have done this to me when you have done this to the least of these.” But in verse 35, He says, “…I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” The Greek word used for “stranger” is ξένος (xenos), where we get our word “xenophobia” from. It means “foreigner” or “alien” (hence, “xenophobia” meaning “fear of foreigners”). Part of Christ recognizing us, from Matthew 25, is how we treat foreigners or aliens who have immigrated or come into our country. Of course, the entirety of the Old Testament is full of passages that command the Hebrews to show compassion on the foreigner, as they too were once foreigners.
What, then, are Christians to do when it comes to illegal immigration? The simple truth is there are some anti-immigration laws we cannot follow. Any laws that would compel us not to offer aid or shelter would have to be disobeyed. Any laws that prevented us from helping an illegal immigrant gain legal status while here would similarly need to be disobeyed. My advice for churches, then, is quite simple; reach out to the illegal immigrants and help them. Often times they are poor and destitute and need help. Never forget that many of them are our brothers and sisters in the Lord first; would you turn in your brother or sister if they were fleeing for their lives, or if they had been living in fear and destitution? Most would not, and so it should be with how we handle illegal immigrants.
More importantly we should connect with churches in Mexico to help members who want to immigrate to the United States to do so legally. If need be the church can pay the expenses. For illegal immigrants already on our soil, the church should help to keep them on this soil, but do so in a legal manner. Help to take off the “illegal” status and make it legal. Some churches might feel compelled to turn in an illegal immigrant, but if your church is capable of helping him obtain legal status and a job then this is the preferable route.
In the end, we must realize that just because an illegal immigrant looks different from us, speaks a different language, and has a different nationality, he is still a human being worthy of respect. He is still a guest (even if uninvited). He is still made in the image of God and therefore should be treated as such. While we can’t take everyone in the world, we can make accommodations for a few more. But most importantly of all, God has commanded us to take care of the foreigner, of the alien, and so no matter what the government says we must care for the foreigner.