The Immigration Controversy
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you
were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34, All Scriptures from RVIC).
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In 2015, the Syrian refugee crisis brought a spotlight to immigration. Although many nations signed commitments to admit refugees, the remaining 90 percent of those seeking immigration has created political and social upheaval, especially in the United States.
Globalization has not moved jobs to areas where the people are in dire need. According to DoSomething.org, nearly half of the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 (US) a day and another 1.3 billion live in extreme
poverty, making less than $1.25 a day.
A lack of sufficient aid results in little chance of betterment without escape to where jobs or social programs exist. Even when done through proper procedure, immigration can result in cries from domestic unemployed workers. For example, in the U.S., workers displaced by the 2008 financial crisis urge
prohibition of job-seeking immigrants; U.K. workers from populist parties warn of “a flood of freeloaders at the gates,” urging harsher immigration policies from mainstream parties; and the Spanish government pays immigrants to leave due to a lack of domestic jobs. Governments must also be diligent to keep out criminals and spies.
The Migration Policy Institute reports that the US has been the top destination for immigration — 20 percent of the 240 million estimated immigrants worldwide, with their descendants, comprise 27 percent of the US population (2017 Current Population Survey). Due to resource constraints, just one million
immigrants are allowed per year, with the majority entering through what is known as Chain Migration.
Under this practice, foreign nationals are guaranteed admission to the US when sponsored by family members who have legally obtained citizenship or permanent residency. NumbersUSA.com, a nonpartisan education group, says this practice nearly doubled the US population between 1950 and 2018 from 170 million to 327 million. The most significant driver was a change in the home countries from Europe (250,000 annually in the 1950s) to Latin America and Asia (1 million annually).
Annual caps on the four categories of Chain Migration prevent a fast track for new entries. The U.S. State Department reports that green cards only recently were issued to many from the Philippines who first applied in the early 1990s. Because of these
caps and lengthy delays, many choose to enter and remain illegally. While it has always been a federal crime to enter illegally, six-month prison sentences and deportation would sometimes be waved. However, the current administration in the US has adopted a “zero-tolerance” policy, making no exceptions and deporting those who attempt to circumvent the immigration process.
Land Rights Respected by Moses
Although God commanded Israel to encompass the “alien” in the land of Israel, several incidents show there was a respect for national borders and sovereignty for those wishing to enter a foreign country.
“And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, How is it that ye are come so soon today? And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and moreover, he drew water for us, and watered the flock. And he said unto his daughters, And where is he? why is it that ye have left the man? call him, that he may eat bread. And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. And she bare a son, and he called his name Gershom; for he said, I have been a sojourner [Hebrew ger] in a foreign
land” (Exodus 2:18-22).
Moses fled Egypt after killing a taskmaster attacking one of his Hebrew brethren. He crossed the Sinai, entering Midian (probably northwestern Arabia) and defended Jethro’s daughters at the well. Though details are limited, Jethro’s gratitude resulted in Moses’ marriage to Jethro’s eldest daughter and managing Jethro’s flocks for 40 years (Exodus 3:1). Due to Jethro’s hospitality as a priest of the nation, Moses called himself a “sojourner” (ger), not a “foreigner” (nekhar) in a foreign (nakhiriyah) land. Moses named his son Gershom, containing the Hebrew ger, reflecting his change from foreigner to sojourner or alien.
“Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us: how our fathers went down into Egypt, and we dwelt in Egypt a long time … and when we cried unto Jehovah, he … sent an angel, and brought us forth out of Egypt: and … we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border. Let us pass … through thy land … we will not turn aside … until we have passed thy border. And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass through me, lest I come out with the sword against thee. … Thus Edom refused … wherefore Israel turned away from him” (Numbers 20:14-21).
When Israel left Sinai after 40 years of wandering, Moses was directed by Jehovah to seek passage through Edom (now southern Jordan). The king of Edom (Edomites were descendants of Esau) refused and sent out his army to protect the border. Israel subsequently turned from entering the land and headed south. (Later they entered but were forbidden to take anything from the Edomites, Deuteronomy 2:2-5).
“And Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers … to sojourn in the land are we come; for there is no pasture for thy servants’ flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan: now, therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen. And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying … the land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land … in the land
of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any able men among them, then make them rulers over my cattle” (Genesis 47:3-6).
Following Joseph’s suggestion, Jacob’s reunited family sought permission from Pharoah to settle in the land of Goshen. It was granted and they became legal residents (gers).
“There shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the LORD. One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you” (Numbers 15:15-16). The ger in Israelite society received social benefits such as the right to glean in the fields (Leviticus 19:9-10), benefit from tithes (Deuteronomy 26:12-13), fair and timely pay,
(Deuteronomy 24:14-15), and full privileges of secular and religious citizenship (Exodus 12:43-49, Leviticus 16:29-30, 17:8-12).
Yet there were limits on immigration. Rebecca, Rahab, and Ruth were welcome, as they discarded their previous cultures for that of Jehovah God. But Israel was not to take on heathen spouses (Ezra chapters 9 and 10). And foreigners were to have no part with them in building the temple of God (Ezra 4: 1-3). In the kingdom resurrected people will have to change their ways thoroughly.
The Kingdom of Plenty
“They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree: and none shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4).
Under the earth’s current arrangement, resources are scarce, and the dream of a better life is interrupted by the realities of a world filled with sin and selfishness. It will not always be so. The Bible promises that the entire earth will become a Paradise, beginning in Israel, “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose [autumn crocus]” (Isaiah 35:1). Earth will yield its full increase so there will be no need to flee one’s home (Psalm 67:6). In God’s kingdom, raised from the dead and instructed in righteousness, man
will have life abundant. All the obedient will share the gracious blessing of eternal life, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that heareth, let him say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come … let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).