Evangelical lobbying for “immigration reform” confuses scripture and secular law

By Howard Hills

An ad hoc coalition of evangelical church leaders is lobbying with zeal in support of legalization and public benefits for unlawful migrants.  Their statement of principles is sound, but many evangelicals calling for legalization in the name of justice are far less adamant about border security or fairness toward aspiring newcomers waiting for lawful admission.  Such ambivalence about justice for all is not sustainable under scriptural doctrine or secular law.

Bible verses amnesty advocates invoke about compassion for foreigners focus on scripture not relevant to the status of those who come in violation of just secular law.  Indeed, the Bible admonishes obedience to secular ordinances unless there is scriptural justification for disobedience.  The Bible certainly does not call on Christians to oppose secular law that justly holds accountable those who trespass against the law of the land.

Some evangelical “immigration reform” lobbyists also appear utterly confused about the causes of hardship for migrants, including the real economic motives for disparity between U.S. immigration practices and those of most developed nations.  Europe faces pressure from nearby poor nations, but has not compounded the problem by allowing an endless stream of illegal immigration.

Some of us with cross-cultural experience living in the poorest nations are keenly aware of the real harm being done to family culture in the nations where most illegal migration originates.  Many who otherwise would stay home and support families in their own culture choose to leave for America only because we make it so easy and reward border violators.

True compassion recognizes that the sum of what most unlawful migrants leave behind often is greater than what is gained here. The loss of an intact family back home seldom is mitigated by “family reunification” after years of separation. Hardship among unlawful migrants is only half the story – hardship for millions more left behind is the other half of the story.

Legalization advocates also need to ask why political and financial support for amnesty comes from business interests exploiting America’s subclass of low wage non-citizen workers to keep labor costs down and profits up. The proposal of “legal” status for more than 12 million unlawful migrants, including millions who still will not qualify for citizenship, will perpetuate the injustices we all decry.

There are words for laws that institutionalize a subclass denied equal legal, political and economic rights.  “Feudalism” and “serfdom” come to mind.   The pilgrims left the Old World, and their descendants became abolitionists who died in our Civil War, to end servitude and inequality.  In modern times private charity for border violators in distress expresses Christian compassion, but so does real reform that ends mass unlawful migration creating conditions of suffering and exploitation.

Any “reform” program that provides legalization, public assistance and other incentives for the next wave of unlawful migrants is about recruitment of cheap labor more than it is about compassion.  Likewise, any path to citizenship that is not linked to restoration of law at our borders is not about justice.

The U.S. allows more legal immigrants to become citizens each year than all the other nations on earth combined.  But only conferral of equal citizenship under law, rather than on demand by violators of our law, can redeem America’s promise of liberty and justice for all who live under our flag.  That is how we honor our nation-of-immigrants heritage for all who seek a new life governed under our Constitution.


Howard Hills lives in Laguna Beach, where he attends an evangelical free church with his wife, who is a lawfully naturalized immigrant from Micronesia.   He served as an international lawyer in the White House National Security Council, Department of Defense, State Department and Peace Corps, specializing in treaty law including immigration and nationality issues.  All views expressed are his personal opinions. 

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  1. Laura Anderson

    I thought this article was to be critical of Evangelical (churches) for confusing empathy with ‘secular’ (sic) law. But it states later that political and financial support for amnesty comes from businesses. Where’s the proof of that? And, isn’t the point of the article the author’s belief in the inappropriate advocacy of churches, who are not financially motivated?

    Whatever one’s stance on immigration, it is laughable to state that ‘true compassion’ is denying people the right to come here because they are better off at home with their families. Would the author then welcome single men as that would not ruin families? No, this is a specious and paternalistic argument cloaked as higher compassion than those stinkin’ churches. Jeez.

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