A Scriptural View of Immigration

What Part of Illegal Don’t You Understand?

Isn’t the term “undocumented” just a euphemism for “illegal aliens”? Basically, yes—undocumented immigrants are those who are present unlawfully in the United States.

While we’re not sure illegal is the best descriptor of the people, but rather their activity (otherwise I might be an “illegal,” too, because I have to confess I have exceeded the speed limit on more than one occasion), and, as the English language has evolved, an “alien” means something to most people other than a human being made in God’s image, these are just semantic preferences: undocumented immigrants are individuals who are present in the United States without lawful authority. It’s interesting to note that that does not necessarily mean that all the undocumented entered unlawfully. At least half of the undocumented population entered “without inspection” (illegally) across a border, but the other 40% to 50% entered legally, with a visa—but then failed to comply with the terms of the visa and fell out of status at a certain point. That means that, while border security may be an important part of fixing a broken immigration system, it can at most solve half of the problem. The fact that these individuals are present unlawfully is a big problem for a lot of Christians. After all, Scripture is very clear that we’re called to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Rom. 13:1). So, yes, we do understand that people are here illegally—but that leads to another question: what do we do about it? The government and the church clearly have very different roles. The church can’t deport people even if it wanted to, so—while we can influence the government (we’ll discuss that below)—we need to figure out our role. It’s important to know that we can minister to immigrants, even undocumented immigrants, without violating the law (at least as it stands in most states). A church can preach the gospel to immigrants, teach English, meet material needs (without offering employment), and be a friend to immigrants and never violate the law. For the undocumented immigrant who is here unlawfully, this gets more complicated. While one could argue whether they have made themselves “subject to the governing authorities” (some might say that the government has the option of deporting them, but has chosen not to, mostly because it is in the nation’s economic interest for them to be here), they are certainly not obeying the law. But, that’s not to say they are flippantly ignoring Scripture: many stay because they feel it is the only way that they can provide for their families, necessary to fulfill another biblical mandate: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim. 5:8). At the end of the day, some have chosen to provide for their families—and be right before the Lord—even if that means disobeying the government, and risking the “sword” that Romans 13:4 tells us it bears. Christians can disagree on which response is right, but I hope we can all agree that it’s tragic that our system forces people to choose between those two, equally biblical commands of following the law and providing for one’s family. We can advocate for the government to reform the immigration laws so that illegal immigration is very, very difficult and legal immigration—not without limit, but sufficient to keep our economy growing and families united—is much easier. And then we need to find some mechanism that recognizes that those who are undocumented have broken the law—insisting that they pay a fine, for example—but which also recognizes our own government’s complicity in creating a morally hazardous, dysfunctional system and avoids the incredible expense of deporting 10 to 12 million people.

10 Responses to What Part of “Illegal” Don’t You Understand?

  1. edgar says:

    what does the church say or think about immigration?

  2. mark says:

    What does illegal mean.Get these blood suckers out of the US

  3. mark says:

    I am going to become an illegal immigrant.I wont have to pay income tax.I will get free services from state and federal government,I can sit home and get paid to drink beer all day

    • Daniel Watts says:

      Mark, regarding question of whether or not undocumented immigrants pay taxes and/or receive government services, you should check out https://g92.wpengine.com/find-answers/economics/ . The facts might surprise you.

      • lew says:

        You are not ‘sure’ illegal is the best description of the people? Well, if you aren’t here LEGALLY, then you are here ILLEGALLY. Legal means that you have done something within the bounds of the written law. Illegally means you are outside the bounds of written law. So, are illegal aliens here legally or illegally? The answer is illegally, so they are therefore illegal aliens. This isn’t a hard thing to understand.

        ,,I have to confess I have exceeded the speed limit on more than one occasion),>>>

        Wow! You ARE implying that someone who has sped in their car is the same as someone who breaks a federal law. Amazing! The taking of assets from others, (yes, money is an asset as much as YOU don’t want to admit) and services that others may need that are born here are unable to get, like say.. .my mother, and that the government is unable to afford now, is the same as speeding in a car huh?

        Illegal aliens are receiving benefits that people who live here for years are unable to get. Tuition would be one of them.

        Trying to make this, everyone is made in God’s image seems horribly light theologically speaking since illegal aliens are breaking the laws of the land, while people who want to come here LEGALLY are unable to do so.


        I guess you can say that they are semantical preferances if you want, but they’re still illegal aliens as the law states.

        Hey, the first attempt at making light of illegal activities huh? We don’t like what a word means, so we’ll change it to meet our angle. You know what, Jesus isn’t savior is He? I mean come on … .most people don’t want to call Him Savior, so we’ll call him our lucky charm right? You can try to change words, but it doesn’t matter. The fact is that they are still ILLEGAL. That’s a pretty sophomoric explaination for not using a word my friend. It’s like saying athlete’s who take PED’s are actually not taking PED’s.


        Actually, 100% of EVERYONE who is an illegal alien, is an illegally. You can’t make a distinction between someone who ‘forgot’ that they were supposed to update a visa or leave the country. You are either horribly ignorant, or a blatant deceiver. One KNOWS they are not supposed to be here, and that makes them STILL an illegal alien.

        You have used the above terms in a DECEITFUL and purposeful manner to try to deflect. That is being a wolf in sheeps clothing! You have chosen to not fully explained PURPOSELY.


        So, would you use Romans for an uprising against government because of their oppressing homeschoolers, photographers, bakers and candlestick makers? What about those who loose their jobs because of their religious views? Should they also do this?

        I will grant you this one thing…. that might be the only truthful thing stated in this article.

        While the churches role is different, it’s still to UPHOLD the law! If you want to break Romans 13 out for this, then we can certainly do it for any other number of reasons.

        There is no persecution as in China, Pakistan, Syria, Egypt. So, the churches role in this unless there is a extreme reason, are to support the law, which is to deport people. If you are OK with this, then you HAVE to be ok with people who want to overthrow the govt.! How can you make a distinction between one law, vs. another. Which sin is a sin and which one isn’t?


        This makes me wonder if you guys have ever heard of Compassion International and other such ministries? Do they not support others in other countries? I should say yes. If so, why can’t LEGAL immigrants support their families in foreign countries as they do children in other countries? Or, why don’t you give your money to these families while they wait in line to come to America like those trying to do so legally?

        What makes people who cross the border better than the ones from Mexico who stand in line at the Counsulate and enter legally?


        In fact, they would be ungodly if they didn’t. Just use your biblical references to support this plan. It’s actually MUCH more biblical than stating one should be an illegal alien!


        No, Christians can’t disagree that being unlawful is lawful! That is a cop-out pure and simple. Your position is either biblical or it isn’t. Most Christians believe that people should treat one another with love, but they are not for illegal aliens being legal aliens. You are basically enablers!

        You also kick those who are FOLLOWING the law in the face! That must not be a concern for you though! How can you (and you ARE whether you want to admit it or not) say yes to those who come illegally, but NO to those who do it legally?

        Lastly, the fact that you support such integration between govt. and the church is exceedingly worrisome. If you can show a verse that says church should be shilling for government monies, I’ll take back everything I’ve said.

        Unless of course, you believe America is a replacement for Israel!

        • Daniel Watts says:

          Lew, when we say “illegal” is not a good descriptor for people, we mean that calling people “illegals” takes one element of what they’ve done, and turns that into the sum of their existence. We think that (generally speaking) it’s not right to break laws, and we don’t have a problem saying that – but the number one way we look at people is as being made in God’s image. We start with that as the foundational perspective of how we view everyone – then we deal with secondary traits (who people are, what they’ve done, etc.). We look at everyone as being made in God’s image (seems pretty irrefutable) and then let that inform the rest of how we treat people. People do break laws, and the fact that they’re made in God’s image doesn’t make it right, but the fact that people break laws doesn’t negate that they – we – are made in God’s image and thus we should speak respectfully of all people in ways that acknowledge their God-given dignity. Christians are specifically called to love and serve people who explicitly have broken laws – after all, Jesus said that the way we treat prisoners (not just wrongfully incarcerated ones) is the way we treat Him!

          And nobody is calling for the overthrow of the government. Written into the very fabric of our nation’s laws is a process that allows us to change the law. The church has historically been a part of making this happen – see abolition of slavery, repeal of Jim Crow laws, etc – so we are calling for Christians to advocate for using the legal and political process to improve immigration laws. The beautiful thing about living in a democracy is that we are allowed to peacefully and legally continue to improve our laws. That’s not an “overthrow of the government” by any stretch of the imagination.

  4. lew says:

    So, are you in favor or not in favor of ANY immigration laws?

    • Daniel Watts says:

      Lew, we are definitely in favor of immigration laws. However, we think the laws could better adhere to common sense (legally allowing in the number of people the American economy needs, for one thing) and certainly to humane and biblical values (keeping families together, for one). The current laws are so broken they’re not even feasibly enforceable – if the government really wanted to, it could probably deport most of the 11-12 million undocumented, but that would be a disaster politically, humanitarianly, and economically. We think we should have better laws, and then better enforce them.

      • dave says:

        “The current laws are so broken they’re not even feasibly enforceable – if the government really wanted to, it could probably deport most of the 11-12 million undocumented, but that would be a disaster politically, humanitarianly, and economically. We think we should have better laws, and then better enforce them.”

        Really? And how do you know this? I especially like your last comment,” and then we can better enforce them.”
        Here are the facts as I see them, We have a lying president who only enforces laws he agrees with.
        Anyone who comes across the border illegally is illegal, that has nothing to do with sharing the gospel.

        Please take a look at Romans 13:1-7 and explain to us why that is even in scripture.

        So actually it appears you are just like Obama, you say you are in favor of immigration laws, as long as they are laws you agree with.

        So, share the gospel with them, the whole gospel, and then send them home to be missionaries int the country they grew up in.

  5. TLNash says:

    Didn’t Jesus’s parents have to show proof of citizenship when travelling to/from

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