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One Law for All

Now and always.

Immigrants and Immigration (6)

“‘You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the LORD your God.’” Leviticus 24.22

The laws of the land
The context of this statute is the death penalty for murder, but the principle encoded here extended to all the laws of the land in ancient Israel. Foreigners were expected to know and obey the Law of God, and they would have been subject to all the procedures of justice should they fail in doing so.

No special laws existed to accommodate their unique needs or concerns, and they were exempt from none of the civil laws by which all citizens of Israel lived. No laws designed to benefit foreigners above native Israelites would have been tolerated.

If a foreigner chose to sojourn among the people of ancient Israel, not only must he be prepared to work and support himself, with but a minimal (and temporary) amount of public support, but he must also be familiar with and submissive to the laws of the land.

And no one in a position of authority could set aside any laws or enact any policies or practices aimed at exempting strangers and sojourners from the same civic obligations as the people of Israel. Law is not a tool for humans to make and wield according to their whims or wants, as has too often been the case in this age of entitlement. All law derives from the Law of God, and the works of God’s Law are written on the heart of every person (Rom. 2.14, 15) and are the standard for good, just, and loving behavior.

So how might this principle apply to reforming immigration policy and practice in America?

No double standard
The Law of God insists that justice is served when everybody within a nation abides by the same standards of law. This only makes sense. Americans despise “double standards” of any kind, and this is especially true when it comes to matters of law and justice. Americans thus intuitively—because the works of the Law are written on their hearts—demonstrate agreement with this basic principle of Biblical Law.

With respect to immigration policy, therefore, no special exceptions or exemptions from the law of the land should exist for foreigners living in this country: no double standards. This includes the existing laws concerning who may become an American citizen and what the process is for that to occur. Nor should any American citizens engaged with immigrants or foreigners be allowed to relate to or associate with immigrants or foreigners apart from the framework of American law.

One reason America has an immigration problem today is because certain employers violate the law of the land with impunity, in particular, those laws relating to minimum wage and income reporting. Illegal immigrants will work for sub-minimum wages, are frequently paid in cash, receive no social security benefits, and do not pay taxes on their unreported income. The work is often seasonal and thus contributes to illegal immigrants not being able to put down roots. They must go to where the work is and often live in conditions of abject squalor.

Personally, I do not believe that minimum wage laws are just or helpful; however, they are the law of the land, and any who circumvent them by hiring illegal workers at below minimum wage rates should be prosecuted until the laws are changed.

Another blatant disregard of American law fueling the current crisis is the waiving of quotas and other requirements relative to immigration to allow as great an influx of immigrants as possible. This, coupled with certain actions favoring immigrants—providing housing, cell phones, transportation, and other double-standard forms of preferentialism—have only made the problem worse. These practices encourage increased illegal immigration and disrespect for the law of the land, and they threaten the security and wellbeing of cities and towns throughout the land where illegal immigrants are transported for political purposes.

…and justice for all
Foreigners and those who aid them in breaking American laws should be held accountable until the demands of justice are met. This should apply to all foreigners, whether diplomats or drug dealers, vagrants or vacationers, part-time workers or full-time students, as well as to all employers, service-providers, bureaucrats, and other members of government. No one living or visiting in this country should be exempt from obedience to American law. All expect the privileges and protections of those laws; all should likewise expect to fulfill the obligations of them.

If the laws are inadequate, outdated, or unjust then they must be changed. But no one may set aside the law with impunity.

We will not make progress in immigration reform if we continue to treat illegal immigrants as a special class or a political boon by choosing to wink at the violations of American law that are associated with their employment, benefits, or other arrangements.

Justice for all means the same justice under the same laws for all those who visit, live, or work within the jurisdiction of those laws.

For reflection
1. How should we respond to employers who violate the law of the land?

2. How should we respond to government when it ignores or violates laws relating to immigration?

3. If “we the people” will not become involved in such issues as this, can we expect the problem to go away? Explain.

Next step—Preparation: Thank God that we live in a country others desperately long to know as their own. How has the present immigration crisis affected your community? How has your community responded? Do you see any evidence of a double standard at work?

T. M. Moore

What is the place of the Law of God in the Christian’s life? Our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics, answers this question and shows us again why Jesus taught us that keeping the Law is an indispensable part of our calling in God’s Kingdom. Order your copy of The Ground for Christian Ethics by clicking here. To gain a better understanding of how the Law of God applies in daily life, order a copy of our book, A Kingdom Catechism, by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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