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Judge Bolton's Decision and the Bible

“Soon after Judge Susan Bolton's decision was announced, a spokesman for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said the state will appeal the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Thursday, asking the appellate court for a swift decision to lift the injunction and allow the blocked provisions to take effect,” reports

This decision was made despite escalating home invasions, private property damage, drug-related crime, kidnappings, and murder in Arizona and other border states, all traceable to an out-of-control problem and a Federal administration dead set on doing next to nothing about it.

Mounting frustration is heard from others who complain of cut fences, escaped animals, stolen farm items, and damaged barns and watering troughs. Excess litter also spreads across the border landscape: water bottles, empty canteens, diapers, plastic bags, and clothing—just to list a few items. One rancher interviewed by Insight Magazine claimed that three of his steers suffocated from ingesting plastic bags.

Additionally, there is the cost to human lives and dignity. Amid temperatures as high as 122 degrees, both American and Mexican authorities routinely search for Mexicans feared lost and dying in the scorching desert terrain. In 2001, twelve illegal immigrants perished as they tried to traverse barren Arizona desert in 115-degree heat. It was the largest number of illegal immigrants to die at once in the Southwest desert in recent years.

Incentives for migrating to the U.S. include the availability of low-skill jobs, higher wages (a third of the Mexican people live on $2.00 a day or less), better standards of living, and expectations of welfare-related benefits. Expatriate communities furnish an attractive support network that fuels the migration northward. Additionally, keeping the flow of immigrants moving is an elaborate and lucrative smuggling network that is estimated to garnish millions of dollars each year. For example, “coyotes” or smugglers charge as much as $500 a person for a ride to the U.S. border and another $1,500 a person from the border to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Before we look at a possible solution to the Mexican problem, let me ask, “Does the Bible teach that people have a right to emigrate?” Yes. In obedience to the call of God, Abram and his family went out from Ur of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran in upper Mesopotamia (Genesis 11:31). The likely explanation for the move is that the extreme paganism of the Chaldean countryside posed a threat to God’s long-range plan of using Abram to raise up a godly seed that would bless many nations. The choice was therefore made for him to emigrate.

Like Abram who found it difficult to obey God in the face of surrounding paganism, people down through the ages have faced the same challenge, but in the form of pagan governments. Biblically, governments are established to defend its citizens from any hostile force that would impede the free exercise of their Creator-endowed rights. To the extent that a government fails to carry out its mandate to punish evildoers and reward the righteous, it is the right of the people to abolish that government and enact a new one. But often this is easier said than done. This is why the Pilgrims followed Abram’s pattern and emigrated. When a government is not only idolatrous, but also the “system” to bring about a new government is given to idolatry, men are responsible to seek liberty for their families by emigrating. The right of people to build a better life under God’s law cannot be abridged by the state.

The Great Commission presents a second model, one that reverses God’s call upon Abram (Matthew 28:18-20). Rather than call men to cross national boundaries in order to flee idolatry, God calls the Church to go to the covenant-breaking nations of the world with the gospel. The clear implication of the Great Commission is that the right to emigrate for the purpose of discipling nations supersedes any interests of the state to the contrary.

For example, in the Church of the Holy Trinity v. U.S. (1892), the Supreme Court sided with a church in New York City that had contracted with a minister in England to perform services as its rector. At issue in the case was whether or not the church’s action violated an Act of Congress, which prohibited the importation of foreign unskilled persons to perform manual services. The Court reasoned that the minister in question was a “toiler of the brain,” not a manual laborer. Justice Brewer wrote in his opinion, “These, and many other matters, which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation” (Justice Brewer in Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 226 [1892]). The effect of the court’s decision was to say that the Great Commission takes precedence in U.S. immigration policy.

Both biblical models above demonstrate that the free expression of religion should act as the cornerstone of a nation’s immigration policy. Typically, the pattern in Scripture is that people emigrate in service to the kingdom of God. The Hebrews emigrated from Egypt to the Promised Land (Exodus 12f). Ezra journeyed from Babylon to Jerusalem “to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:1-10). And Nehemiah left Babylon and came to Jerusalem to help rebuild the city wall (Nehemiah 1-2).

When emigration is carried out within the context of the spread of God’s kingdom it has the material effect of elevating the cultural and economic conditions of nations. However, the Mexican immigration crisis demonstrates the opposite effect: most migratory movement from Mexico to the U.S. is conducted within the context of economic motives, resulting in the exploitation of illegal aliens by political progressives to further undermine America’s Judeo-Christian foundation.

There are examples in Scripture of people emigrating for economic purposes. Abram moved his flocks and herds into Egypt to escape a severe famine throughout Canaan (Genesis 12:10). Jacob and his family also went to Egypt to escape a famine in Canaan (Genesis 37). However, in these instances, the emigrant took his means of subsistence with him, whereby he became both a spiritual and economic blessing to the new land.

It is said that most illegals are here to work, and indeed many are. Point of fact, “Remittances from Mexican immigrants in the United States to their families back home are a major source of income in Mexico, second only to oil and surpassing even the tourism industry. Money sent back in 2004 totaled $16.6 billion, a 28 percent increase over the previous year (Frontline World, 2005,

However, it is also true that the U.S. welfare system encourages immigrant dependency. As far back as 1995, George Borjas and Lynnette Hinton noted that immigrants, including illegal aliens, receive cash and non-cash welfare benefits at higher rates than native Americans (George J. Borjas and Lynnette Hinton, “Immigration and the Welfare State: Immigrant Participation in Means-Tested Entitlement Programs,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper, no. 5372 (December 1995). Not only does welfare participation increase among immigrants over time, but also some immigrant groups appear to assimilate into welfare. The net cost of immigrants on the U.S. welfare system is estimated in the billions per year, with certain states bearing a disproportionate burden.

Now how can we work toward a biblical solution to the illegal alien crisis?

First, we Americans need to focus on ourselves; to do a little spiritual house-cleaning. Understand the real source of the illegal immigrant problem in the U.S. It is an astounding fact that ancient Israel practiced open borders. It was on the strength of Israel keeping her covenantal oath that any external threat posed by a foreign nation was destined to fail. The key to Israel’s success over hostile nations did not lie in the capacity to change their behavior, but in changing its own; in remaining true to Yahweh.

However, Joshua revealed what would happen if Israel rejected the covenant and sought after the gods of the surrounding nations. Those nations would become a deadly snare. “Know with certainty that the Lord your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they shall be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land, which the Lord your God has given you” (Joshua 23:13). On the whole, America has also rejected God’s commandments and has turned to idols. Is it any wonder that the U.S. is experiencing the same discipline as ancient Israel? The Bible teaches us that America’s ability to safeguard her national borders and interests does not depend ultimately on "sealing the border" though this is needed, but upon the spiritual sanctions we as a people place upon ourselves.

Second, let's think biblically about loving our border neighbor as ourselves. The problem in Mexico is not only economic, but also spiritual. U.S.-based churches and mission’s agencies need to do more to evangelize Mexicans (Great Commission) with the goal of discipleship in a biblical worldview of economics and related issues that can change Mexican culture and hopefully stem the tide of illegal aliens (Cultural Mandate). If biblical emigration is in service to the kingdom of God, then more Spanish-speaking American missionaries with backgrounds in economics need to move to Mexico to live and teach. Organizations like Campus Crusade for Christ International can help facilitate your call to Mexico.

Lastly, the American church must do more to reach Mexican immigrants with the gospel and a biblical worldview while they are in America. It is estimated that up to one-third of United States immigrants eventually return home. This means there is a wealth of potential indigenous Mexican missionaries in our midst. Mexican immigrants in the U.S. number over 12 million. Let’s assume that the return rate among Mexican immigrants parallels the return rate among all immigrant groups. If 4 million (1/3) return home, and of that 4 million only half of one percent were to return as Christians with a plan to reach souls and Mexican culture with the gospel, then almost 20,000 Mexicans would be sent to Mexico as Christian missionaries! This is in addition to native-born American missionaries.

What would happen to the Mexican immigration crisis within several years of the implementation of this plan? Just perhaps it would be well on its way to being solved.


  1. John Barber!
    Get your book Christianity and Culture - in the spring after seeing it on the web. Reads Your blog with the proceeds, including the last "difficult" issue of illegal immigration

  2. Yes, it is getting more difficult.

  3. John, I have to agree with much of what you said, but there is one section that makes me very uncomfortable and I don't see many people talking about it.

    In your first suggestion of how can we work toward a biblical solution to the illegal alien crisis you seem to indicate that you believe that God's unique Mosaic covenant with Israel (which ended for good in my estimation in AD 70) is applicable to the US specifically and by extension other nations generally.

    Am I misunderstanding the basis for your first point?

    I'm very comfortable with your call to churches in the US to examine themselves and to use this Mexican emigration as an opportunity to expand the Kingdom of God by loving neighbor, sharing the Gospel of Christ and discipling believers to return to be indigenous missionaries. That is completely sound and biblical.

    It seems like you're suggesting the US government should have this same view as the churches should have.

    Please correct me if I'm wrong in understanding your point.


  4. @ Weave. Have just returned from Africa. So forgive for taking so long to reply. I do not think the Mosaic Law, in its totality, should apply to the way governments operate. However, that the moral law does apply to all of us, including government, is true. "Thou shalt not kill" still applies to the whole of the world. So I want to maintain the principles of the Law while looking to how these principles are to be applied in specific situations today. Thanks for reading Earth Restored. Glad it is still generating discussion. Please check out The Road From Eden and My Almost for His Highest for more on culture and Christian life. Grace!!!


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