If the law goes into force, “all illegal aliens will leave Georgia.” In one federal judge’s view, that is a bad thing. Over the last week, I have done two interviews on Fox News explaining Georgia’s new immigration law and the ACLU’s lawsuit against it. This is an issue ripe for an “On Faith” discussion.
Although Georgia’s law has been compared to Arizona’s much-debated SB 1070, it is not an exact replica. Earlier this week, a federal judge issued an injunction against the most legally controversial parts of HB 87 which are: the authorization for police to investigate immigration status after a crime has been committed, the penalties for transporting and harboring illegal aliens, and the penalties for helping illegal aliens enter Georgia.
The injunction was not a surprise. The judge, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Thrash , a Clinton appointee, made no secret about the problems he had with the law during oral argument.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of these new laws. Arizona, Utah, Indiana, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina have already passed tough new immigration laws that have or will be challenged in court. These state laws are all a result of the federal government’s admittedly “limited resources” to tackle the illegal immigration problem our country is facing.
Rather than focus on the constitutional issues, with the Supremacy Clause issue being the most prominent, let’s discuss the faith issues surrounding the question of how to handle illegal immigrants.
I will be the first to admit that many of the illegal aliens in the United States are here for personal economic reasons. While their purposes for being here may be far from nefarious, they are criminals who have knowingly violated the law.
Biblically, we are instructed to obey laws with only one exception: those that are in direct contradiction to God’s commands. The Bible does not provide governments with a model for our modern immigration challenges or prescribe border security policy.
Unfortunately, our current immigration laws are unenforceable nationally. While the federal government has the authority to deport illegal aliens, we know that it does not have the ability to do so effectively. Securing our borders is a top priority when it comes to defending our national sovereignty. Yet, securing the borders is not enough because there are millions of illegal aliens already here.
There are basically two options. One is to pass a law similar to one the Southern Baptist Convention has endorsed that creates a pathway to citizenship or legal residency for some illegal immigrants. The other option is to provide the resources and the authority, both to federal and state law enforcement officials, necessary to fully enforce existing laws. Either way, employers should be responsible for the role they play in illegal immigration, too. The federal government has created the E-Verify system and thankfully the Supreme Court recently held that states may mandate its use.
At the ACLJ, we often represent people seeking asylum or refugee status from all over the world. These individuals enter “by the gate” and voluntarily submit to the legal process. Their situation is often far different from economically-motivated illegal immigration.
There are some Christians who oppose tough immigration laws and seize on verses like this one to justify their position:
When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 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.
In my opinion, this verse has little bearing on illegal aliens. A “sojourner” is defined as a temporary resident . This implies intent to return home at some point, very different from many illegal aliens here for economic reasons who would be happy to stay in the United States in perpetuity. Legal immigrants deserve the treatment described in the verse, as do individuals with temporary worker visas.
Illegal aliens, whatever their intentions may be, must face the consequences of breaking the law. There is no reason for Christians to be apologetic when it comes to enforcing the law.
How do you think the government (federal and state) should handle the problem of illegal immigration? Does your faith guide you on immigration?