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What the Bible says about immigrants (and it may surprise you!)

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Many conservative and liberal Christians in America look upon immigrants very negatively. Despite the irrefutable evidence that immigrants – even illegal immigrants – do not “steal” American jobs, do not sap entitlements, and are a clear boon to the economy, we routinely hear how immigrants are categorically “bad.”

I am here to tell you that such an attitude is wrong on every level. Besides the economic and ethical arguments for why we should embrace open borders and oppose the state claiming more and more power to usurp freedom of movement, even God is on the side of the “alien”. We can see this throughout Scripture.

God says you should treat immigrants the same as you treat natives.

Exodus 22:21–24

21 “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. 22 “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. 24 My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.

Exodus 23:9

9 “Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.

Leviticus 19:33–34

33 “ ‘When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. 34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

Deuteronomy 10:14–22

14 To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the Lord set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. 20 Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your forefathers who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.

Deuteronomy 24:16–18

16 Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin. 17 Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. 18 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.

2 Chronicles 6:32–33

32 “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when he comes and prays toward this temple, 33 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.

Isaiah 56:1–8

1 This is what the Lord says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed. 2 Blessed is the man who does this, the man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” 3 Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.” And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” 4 For this is what the Lord says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant— 5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. 6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant— 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” 8 The Sovereign Lord declares— he who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.”

Jeremiah 7:6–7

6 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever.

Zechariah 7:9–10

9 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’

God requires that the same law be used for natives and immigrants.

Exodus 12:49

49 The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you.”

Leviticus 24:22

22 You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.’ ”

God will pass judgment against those who abuse immigrants.

Deuteronomy 27:19

19 “Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

Psalm 94:1–13, 20-23

1 O Lord, the God who avenges, O God who avenges, shine forth. 2 Rise up, O Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve. 3 How long will the wicked, O Lord, how long will the wicked be jubilant? 4 They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting. 5 They crush your people, O Lord; they oppress your inheritance. 6 They slay the widow and the alien; they murder the fatherless. 7 They say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob pays no heed.” 8 Take heed, you senseless ones among the people; you fools, when will you become wise? 9 Does he who implanted the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see? 10 Does he who disciplines nations not punish? Does he who teaches man lack knowledge? 11 The Lord knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile. 12 Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord, the man you teach from your law; 13 you grant him relief from days of trouble, till a pit is dug for the wicked…

20 Can a corrupt throne be allied with you— one that brings on misery by its decrees? 21 They band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. 22 But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. 23 He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the Lord our God will destroy them.

Jeremiah 22:3–5

3 This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. 4 For if you are careful to carry out these commands, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this palace, riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by their officials and their people. 5 But if you do not obey these commands, declares the Lord, I swear by myself that this palace will become a ruin.’ ”

Ezekiel 22:7

7 In you they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the alien and mistreated the fatherless and the widow.

Ezekiel 22:29–31

29 The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice. 30 “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. 31 So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

Malachi 3:5

5 “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.

Admonitions to be charitable with immigrants:

Deuteronomy 24:19–22

19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. 21 When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. 22 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.

Deuteronomy 26:8–14

8 So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders. 9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; 10 and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, O Lord, have given me.” Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him. 11 And you and the Levites and the aliens among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household. 12 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. 13 Then say to the Lord your God: “I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them. 14 I have not eaten any of the sacred portion while I was in mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor have I offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the Lord my God; I have done everything you commanded me.

Job 31:32

32 but no stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler—

We should treat immigrants as we would treat Christ.

Matthew 25:34–46

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

(Scripture quotations taken from the NIV. Many thanks to Dick Clark for his assistance compiling these passages.)

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Dr. Norman Horn

Norman founded LibertarianChristians.com and the Libertarian Christian Institute, and currently serves as its President and Editor-in-Chief. He holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from the Austin Graduate School of Theology. He currently is a Postdoctoral researcher in Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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