Immigration, miracles, and President Jesus

But we should call out hypocrisy when we see it. And for a party that associates itself with Christianity to say that it is OK to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages, [that party] has lost all claim to ever use religious language again. – Pete Buttigieg

How would President Jesus handle the immigration crisis? I’m confident that if Jesus were president he would oppose same-sex marriage and abortion, as I argued in my previous posts. But I’m less certain of what his immigration policies would be. This issue is much more complex with no clear, satisfactory solutions.

Immigration is one of the most contentious issues dividing our country today. We on the right are often characterized as the party that heartlessly puts kids in cages and separates families. Those on the left are portrayed as soft on crime and indifferent to the threat a lax immigration policy poses to the safety and welfare of American citizens. Those on both sides who identify as Christian would claim that their position is the one Jesus himself would support.

And I think they’re right. I believe Jesus would say ‘Amen’ to welcoming all who are looking for an honest way to better their lives, and also support policies (like a border wall) to keep out all who are looking to dishonestly better their lives at the expense of others’.

Though God often instructed his people to care for the “foreigners” and “sojourners” among them, he also was pretty serious about punishing lawbreakers. And yes, Jesus taught that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, even those whom we count as our enemies, but it would be a mistake to think of him as moved only by compassion and not also by a fervor for righteousness.

This is key to a wise immigration policy – a commitment to enforcing the just laws that are necessary to protect American citizens and our livelihood, coupled with a compassion for immigrants needing the safety and wanting the opportunities we citizens enjoy. But these foundational principles held in tandem are held in tension as well because they often conflict.

And that’s why I don’t think even Jesus himself would be able to craft an immigration policy that would make everyone happy, unless of course he miraculously multiplied resources. Because sometimes rights collide and one of them’s got to give. As compassionate citizens we want to affirm that everyone, including illegal immigrants, has a right to food and housing, and for some that means extending welfare benefits to them. But we also believe a man has a right to enjoy the fruits of his labor, so when those are taken away to give to someone who hasn’t worked for them, we have a conflict of rights.

When Jesus saw “that a large crowd was coming toward him” and knew that they would be hungry, he could have told his disciples to go home and break their piggy banks (oh, there’s a Jewish joke in there somewhere), beg for or borrow more denarii if they had to, and come back with enough loaves and fishes to feed the crowd. But, from a human perspective, that would have been massively unfair to the disciples. He had to perform a miracle instead to feed the 5,000+ men, women, and children without abusing anyone’s rights.

And I think it would take a miracle to solve the immigration crisis to everyone’s satisfaction. But we would go a long way towards finding the most satisfactory of the various unsatisfactory solutions by acknowledging all around that some will suffer no matter what we do. We simply don’t have the power nor the resources to provide for and protect everyone perfectly.

And we would go further still if, in our human efforts to do the miraculous, we not only referenced Jesus as our model but humbly and sincerely sought his help as well.