I'm not going to answer the question posed in the headline of this blog. I leave the answer to the consciences of individual Americans who practice the Christian faith, based on how the Holy Spirit guides them according to the Bible's teachings.
What I'm going to do, however, is share four biblical principles I, as a follower of Jesus whose calling has been to the Washington policy arena, have derived for addressing such matters of prudential judgment. I'll apply those criteria to the amnesty issue and the bill presently before the Senate, S.744.
Here are four questions to ask about public policy, including immigration, in order to determine whether a policy proposal is consistent with biblical prudence:
- Does the proposed policy advance order?
- Does the proposed policy advance justice?
- Is what the policy proposes a biblical duty of government?
- Is the policy carefully crafted to achieve its goal in the least expansive way and advanced in a manner that promotes consensus?
Promoting order is essential for legitimate policy. Order is central to God's nature. Genesis 1 and 2 illustrate God's ordering His creation. God affirmed this character quality when He asked Job, "Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons? Do you know the laws of the heavens?" The storyline of history is the battle between order and rebellion against order. Because of the Fall, people are prone to rebel. Rebelling against order embraces lawlessness. Rebelling against order is evil and leads to more evil.
America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles of ordered liberty for self-controlling citizens. Yet, as Christian thinker Francis Schaeffer warned, the nation's "form-freedom balance" is jeopardized by individualism unconstrained by moral order. Illegal immigration is fundamentally rebellious individualism. Illegal immigration disrupts order in society. Amnesty exacerbates disorder. Illegal immigration and amnesty put our national "form-freedom balance" at risk because they reward foreigners who break immigration laws and usually other laws as well (e.g., tax fraud, identity theft).
The duty of civil government is justice for its citizens. God has entrusted to human agents and institutions the responsibility of protecting the innocent and vulnerable who have been placed under their care. For civil authorities, justice is the mission, and civil government alone has been entrusted with the sword of justice, with responsibility for the best interests of its own citizens. Romans 13 says "The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted."
Biola University professor J.P. Moreland states that Old Testament "Israel is not a good parallel to" the U.S. government. Instead, he directs us to "the obligations the Old Testament places on pagan nations", such as in Amos 1 and 2, as the appropriate standard to apply. Moreland's point is that God charges civil government in non-theocratic nations to protect negative rights — that is, punish murderers, protect against theft, enforce national borders. Moreland says "[T]he state is not to be in the business of showing compassion or providing positive rights for others. That is an individual moral responsibility. No, the state is the protector of negative rights."
Mass amnesty is the granting of positive rights. Even worse, it gives positive rights to foreign citizens. This is unjust and falls beyond the government's prerogative because it abuses justice, effectively punishing its own citizens by favoring foreigners.
3. Government's Duty
In a secular nation, not everything God commands of individuals necessarily translates into appropriate public policy. Jesus distinguished between the realm of Caesar and that of the covenant community. Civil authorities have only the resources the public has entrusted to them. The state exceeds its legitimate authority to use the sword of justice to coerce "compassion". Moreland calls this "ethical utilitarianism" an "end justifies the means" mentality.
For civil government to exercise the mercy of the Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount, the result is injustice against its citizens. The very nature of mercy is willingly to incur injustice. When government attempts "mercy" like mass amnesty, what it really does is obligate its citizens to bear injustices committed against the body politic. Thus, the government should only exert compassion or mercy by preserving negative rights. Where illegal immigrants are concerned, that means protecting citizens against aliens' lawlessness. "The least of these", for the government, are American citizens, not illegal aliens. The indiscriminate mass legalization of 11 million illegal aliens is the opposite of compassion. And amnesty is using the sword of justice to coerce and abuse the citizenry.
4. Limits and Fairness
Biblical prudence in public policy requires deliberately crafting solutions that go no further than the government's legitimate duty. Moreland suggests that good laws are based on the self-evident natural law referenced in the Declaration of Independence. And policies should be adopted in a fair manner that promotes public support and lends legitimacy to the policy.
But the Senate amnesty bill far exceeds limited legislation, running counter to the ability of a self-governing republic to regulate immigration. S.744 is deliberately crafted to be unrestrained, far-reaching, and out of keeping with natural law. Nothing in the bill would forestall a repeat of mass lawbreaking in the future. The legislation lacks any meaningful enforcement.
Senate amnesty proponents have blocked a fair, honest, open process. The dice are loaded. The Gang of Eight agreed in advance to stick together and beat back any substantive amendments. Thus, the process through which S. 744 is moving is a sham, a hollow debate. It gives a semblance of fair process, but in reality is carefully manipulated to force a predetermined outcome. This procedure feeds public cynicism.
Therefore, S.744, the amnesty bill, would seem to fall short of biblically prudent public policy. First, this legislation does not promote order, but fosters disorder. Second, it does not advance justice, but imposes state-sponsored injustice upon its own people. Third, the legislation exceeds biblical limits on prudent, appropriate public policy by awarding positive rights to 11 million aliens. Fourth, S. 744 goes far beyond addressing the essential policy challenge of illegal immigration. And it is moving by a cynical process manipulated to stifle real debate. There isn't much that's biblically justifiable here.