Donald Trump’s headline-grabbing agenda on immigration is unbiblical and unworkable.
The biblical witness is abundantly clear. We are to treat the immigrant with kindness and justice.
For example, Deuteronomy 10:18-19 says that God “loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt.”
Or take Leviticus 19:34, “Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens.”
Deuteronomy 24:14-15 advocates for protection of immigrants. “Don’t take advantage of poor or needy workers, whether they are fellow Israelites or immigrants who live in your land or your cities. Pay them their salary the same day, before the sun sets, because they are poor, and their very life depends on that pay.”
The biblical witness presses us to treat the undocumented kindly – and justly.
When Trump calls undocumented Mexicans “rapists” and accuses them of being a class of criminals, he is being unkind, even hateful.
He is also being untruthful.
Remember the Ninth Commandment. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).
Trump bears false witness, speaks untruthfully against undocumented Mexicans when he accuses them of being rapists and criminals.
Crime has actually not increased as the undocumented population has increased.
The American Immigration Council reports that “between 1990 and 2013, the foreign-born share of the U.S. population grew from 7.9 percent to 13.1 percent and the number of unauthorized immigrants more than tripled from 3.5 million to 11.2 million.” At the same time, “the violent crime rate declined 48 percent – which included falling rates of aggravated assault, robbery, rape and murder. Likewise, the property crime rate fell 41 percent, including declining rates of motor vehicle theft, larceny/robbery and burglary.”
Moreover, undocumented males are less likely to be incarcerated than native-born males.
It is simply false to smear an entire group of people based on a few headlines about criminal behavior. It is a negative narrative that the undocumented are rapists and criminals.
Again, Trump’s statements are unkind, untruthful and unbiblical.
Trump’s immigration plan is also unworkable.
Our society is simply not going to deport an estimated 11 million undocumented people. A goodly number of these are people are people of faith. They share our core values.
They attend English as a Second Language classes in our churches. Their children go to school with our children.
If we adopt Trump’s immigration plan, we would break apart families. American Christians aren’t going to support the breakup of families!
Moreover, our society needs immigrant workers. There are not enough qualified Americans in some high-tech fields. In other fields, Americans aren’t willing to do the work. We need immigrants for an expanding economy.
When Trump fashions a conspiratorial theory of the Mexican government sending its citizens to the U.S., he ignores the fact that Mexico accounts for a little over 50 percent of the undocumented.
When he demands that Mexico should build a wall on the border, he is feeding a political fantasy.
We don’t need political fantasy, political rhetoric. We need workable solutions. We need bipartisan collaboration to reform American immigration policy.
While no straight line exists between the Bible and public policy, the moral direction for people of faith is clear: We must treat the undocumented kindly and with justice.
American Christians may rightly disagree about immigration policy. American Christians ought to agree that hatefulness and untruthfulness are unacceptable.
The next time one hears praise for Trump on immigration in houses of faith or the public square, let’s remind his advocates that Trump’s attitude and agenda are way off target for people of faith.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.
Editor’s note: View a video conversation about Donald Trump between Cliff Vaughn, EthicsDaily.com’s media producer, and Parham here. A documentary on faith and immigration is available at GospelWithoutBorders.net.
Robert M. Parham (1953 – 2017) was the founder and executive director of Baptist Center for Ethics from 1991 to 2017. He served as executive editor of EthicsDaily.com, BCE’s website, from its launch in 2002 until 2017.