The Obama Administration, in a major policy shift, has announced that the U. S. Government will no longer deport undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children. There are some stipulations, but the overall effect of the new law is that an expected 800,000 lives which otherwise were at risk of being uprooted are now secure.
The President spoke directly to the problem:
“These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants, and often have no idea that they’re undocumented until they apply for a job or a driver’s license or a college scholarship.
Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you’ve done everything right your entire life, studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class, only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language that you may not even speak.”
The decision drew both praise and criticism, much of it from expected quarters, some criticism coming in the form of an overt interruption of the President’s speech (twice). But from a Christian point of view, there is little doubt that this decision is rooted in biblical values.
I Was a Stranger, and You Welcomed Me
Scripture is blunt in both Old and New Testament about treatment of “strangers.” A continual theme in the Pentateuch and after concerns God’s judgement upon Israel for mistreating the stranger / sojourner / alien.
A few verses may suffice:
33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” [Leviticus 19 ESV]
And later on, amidst a list of sins listed in Malachi 3:
5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.”
And as far as Jesus’ words on the topic, one stark example should suffice:
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Hopefully both lawmakers and those who attempt to influence such lawmakers will keep in mind that dire warning.