The Role of Natives and Migrants

Migration is a fairly tricky subject, and arguably uniquely so in our day and age. There have certainly been migration patterns, even involving thousands of people, but economic migration and border-length border control have rarely been so prevalent. With both sides of the aisle slapping the Christian faith on their political perspective, or, rather, slapping their political perspective on the Christian faith, I think that a thorough analysis of immigration would be useful.

It’s worth highlighting the difference between the New and Old Testaments. Christianity by design has no nationality, culture, or boundaries. Missionaries travelling across continents are the norm, and there is likely a Christian in every country on Earth because of these policies. However, placed on top of that underlying creed is the set of rulers, countries, and nations. These leaders were placed by Yahweh to manage the people of Yahweh where a single ruler alone could not. As such, the Old Testament laws and guides for rulers and nations is still relevant, especially as the New Testament focuses more on a personal basis.

Immigration in the Bible has an air of humility. The Old and even the New Testaments are filled to the brim (Deuteronomy 10:19, 23:7, Isaiah 52:4, Jude 1:5) with constant reminders that the Hebrews were once aliens in the land of Egypt. They were rescued from Egypt by Yahweh, and they returned to their predestined home. Their law forbade them from repeating the atrocities that the Egyptians committed on them. They knew what it was like; sympathies lay with the foreigner. However, logic would dictate boundaries and parameters between native and foreigner, lest the Israelites lose their identity and homeland, and by proxy their faith.

Immigrant integration is integral to the Torah’s foreign policy. The act of circumcision, for example, was prescribed by God to all of Abraham’s household, both those born and those brought in from the outside. It was a unifying factor, one that distinguished God’s chosen from the rest, in a purely private manner. Likewise, the act of integrating into society meant the rejection of prior ways. Jews were not allowed to share the Passover with uncircumcised foreigners. This does not, however, mean no relationship at all. According to Isaiah 60:10 and 61:5, foreigners would serve Israel, building her walls and tending to her crops and vineyards. One imagines parallels in today’s world.

The reaction to immigrants is passive. Deuteronomic law prevents a foreigner from leadership (17:15) and from the right to borrow without interest (23:20). An immigrant could live and thrive under these conditions in a “live and let live” attitude. The concept of citizenship had not been developed as thoroughly under Jewish law, but one could apply a similar concept. Benefits reserved for native-born or fully integrated members of a nation are both tolerable and necessary for a functioning society, no matter how unfair it may seem. Further, Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 19:33, and Jeremiah 7:6 strictly forbid the oppression of foreigners. Exploiting their labor because they are optionless is immoral. Deportation is not immoral, but the weaponization of the threat of deportation is immoral. Toleration is the best position for natives, and integration is the best position for migrants.

I personally conclude that United States immigration policy is reasonable. The path to citizenship doesn’t even require knowledge of English but does require knowledge of the nation’s government and history. American traditions, unlike those of Eurasian nations, were founded in lockstep with the formation of the government and so are heavily tied to republican democracy, just as the Hebrews had their traditions from their founding history. Integration is not only key but also a much easier process. Immigrants are allowed to work wherever they can afford, but illegal immigrants are indiscriminately returned when possible, without the aura of oppression outside of deportation. The result is a flourishing society, blessed by God, built on the backs of migrants and natives alike.


2 responses to “The Role of Natives and Migrants”

  1. Bruce E. Wren Avatar
    Bruce E. Wren

    Good article. For a Catholic take on this, here is a fairly good article expounding St. Thomas Aquinas’ views on immigration.

  2. Interesting read.

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