Allow me to begin by doing something I rarely do: give my intersectional credentials. I have been both an immigrant (I lived in Sweden for 5 years), and my favorite person in the world (my wife) is from Bulgaria. So when I say that mass immigration is not something the Bible is supportive of, it’s obviously not because I’m a hard-lined, blood-and-soil nativist.
Picture this scene: you and your family are asleep, and in the middle of the night there’s a knock on the front door. Outside there’s a woman with her kids. There’s been a huge riot in their area and they’ve just been chased out of their home, they’ve left with nothing and are unable to return. You’ve got a big house, so you invite them in to stay and live with you. Have you done a righteous act? Of course! Good for you, your righteous person!
Word spreads that you’re a decent kind of person, and as other families find themselves in similar situations, they show up and you take them in. Again, broadly speaking, that’s good and righteous. But over time you start to notice that some of those coming have not actually been kicked out at all, they just liked your house better and wanted the free accommodation in a nicer area. And a lot of them aren’t women and children, they are young men. Actually, almost all of them are young men, like 90%. In fact, many of them are the kind of men that the original women and children were fleeing from. Furthermore, your own family is now bearing a significant cost – the cost of accommodation has risen to be completely unsustainable, violent and sexual crimes are occurring, there are whole areas where the family is being treated as second-class citizens, new arrivals actually get greater privileges than the family members, and the original values that made your household a pleasant place to be are now being eroded and replaced. Are you still doing something morally good and righteous by allowing everyone who shows up at your door to come in?
No. You’re not.
Let me give you four key points when it comes to analyzing immigration from a Christian perspective:
1) Immigration Stats Say Very Little About Individual Immigrants
If I show you a graph that says men are generally taller than women, that most endurance world record holders come from East Africa, or Northern Irish people are the most intelligent people in the world, then you get a trend. What it doesn’t tell you is anything about one specific individual. If you meet a woman, it might be a tall woman, or if you meet an East African, it doesn’t mean they’re an endurance runner, or if you meet a Northern Irish person, they could be me. So just because someone is from elsewhere doesn’t tell you why they are in a given country or if they’re a net positive or negative. Elon Musk for instance, though not American, could be considered a net positive for US economy. So just because certain stats and trendlines exist doesn’t provide an excuse for mistreating the person in front of you. Christians should give the benefit of the doubt, and just generally be kind and welcoming regardless of background.
Should you treat people from elsewhere just as well as anyone else you meet? Yes, the Bible is supportive of this. But that doesn’t mean everyone in the world gets to move into your country in the name of common courtesy. This is not rocket science.
2) Ordo Amoris
Rather than a Harry Potter spell, ordor amoris is the biblical idea that you’re supposed to treat people differently, so you don’t treat everyone equally. For example, the Bible recognizes that you’re supposed to treat your own wife differently than other people’s wives. You treat your friends differently than you treat a stranger. You’re supposed to love your own family more than someone else’s. In fact, you’d be considered crazy if you didn’t. This is the ordo amoris.
This also operates in the national and political sphere. You’re supposed to love your own country more than others. God put kings and rulers over Israel. What was their area of responsibility? Israel. Which nation would God hold them accountable for running? Israel. Whose citizens should they primarily be looking out for? Israel’s. So which nations are our governments responsible for? Their own. America first is a right and natural thing for Americans, as is Britain first for Brits, India first for Indians, and Ghana first for Ghanaians.
Obviously, this can be abused – loving your own family more doesn’t mean you get to invade your neighbor’s house, but it does mean that the governments are primarily responsible for their own national interests, not every other nation or the UN. This means that, when discussing immigration, the primary concern should be for the well-being of the citizens of the nation above all else. Those allowed in should be there primarily because they improve the lives of the citizens, by having certain skills, being married to one of them, or bringing in monetary value. While obviously occasional exceptions can be made for extreme circumstances, generally speaking, these should be rare. we should be moving those people towards adding value, and the way to ensure that you get the real need is to not say that whoever shows up claiming they need asylum gets a luxury hotel room and free money from the taxpayer, but that they work to pay their own way (2 Thessalonians 3:10), and if they form gangs and break the law, they get removed immediately. All this is an appropriate application to ensure governments have their loves ordered correctly.
3) Mass Immigration Has Significant Downsides That Damage Society
People will be quick to mention that there are upsides – again, of course, this is possible. But we should not pretend that immigration is all positive. Look at the negatives in 3 areas, the first being costs.
Let’s say I run a foodbank distribution center here (in the UK) – do you know what the primary driver of poverty is here? Housing costs. They’re through the roof. And the primary driver of housing costs? Mass immigration. We have close to 600k people move in annually and have had mass immigration since the mid90s when our borders were opened. As we don’t have homes for 600k per year, costs go up. It’s not often addressed, but the reason people can’t buy homes is because the demand is extraordinarily high. Most stats on this are hard to track down, but there are some from Denmark. This Norse nation did a breakdown of the financial contributions of migrants from different backgrounds, and they found Western migrants broadly added value, whilst non-Western migrants broadly cost the economy money. This is an important factor.
Crime is another issue. The majority of the population commits most of the crime, but a look at per capita crime provides more clarity. Lots of migrants are well-behaved, but non-Western migrants are vastly overrepresented in violent crimes, sexual assaults, and grooming gangs. 70% of violent crimes in Paris were carried out by non-French perpetrators last year. African migrants commit 52% of violent crimes while accounting for a mere 3.2% of the population.
Finally, there’s the issue of culture. I love Northern Ireland and the Irish people. But if all 1.8 million of us decided to move to Iceland (with a population of 300k), I don’t think that would be a good thing. In fact, it would effectively be the end of Iceland. That would be bad, because Icelandic culture, history, and values are worth preserving. Well, so is Western culture. When you bring in massive amounts of people from elsewhere – when 1 in 6 people in Britain were not born there – when 1 in 36 people in Ireland moved there within the last year – you wipe out the culture that exists, not to mention the language and values. This is particularly true if the cultures are not compatible – they share no worldview, religion, or social norms. This is not a blessing, this is a judgment, as indeed Deuteronomy and Isaiah imply.
4) When Migration Becomes a Threat, the Biblical Response is to Stop It
When Justin Welby or Russell Moore talk about how we need to practice “hospitality towards the stranger,” notice a couple of things. Firstly, no one ever asks what the Bible would have to say to those who are “breaking into” a country. The Bible is not in support of breaking and entering. Secondly, they don’t ask whether or not this actually applies in this instance. If someone breaks into your house, posing a threat to you and your family, and you kick them out, then no one says that you should have shown them hospitality. That would be an immoral, unbiblical response. Furthermore, I think they know this, I’m pretty sure everyone who said things like, “build bridges not walls” all live in houses with walls.
So whilst there’s a lot of talk about “protecting the vulnerable” in this discussion, sometimes, that is the women, children, and already struggling classes of your own nation, and sometimes the legitimate refugees from violence who have fled to you for legitimate reasons, for whom you as a society actually bear primary responsibility. Maybe we should, from time to time, consider protecting them.