photo credit: melanzane1013
Lately I have been studying the Old Testament more closely than I ever have before and finding some hidden gems there. I am currently in Leviticus which I had remembered as nothing but heave offerings, wave offerings, burnt offerings, sin offerings, and instructions on where to burn “the fat that is above the caul.”
In Leviticus 19 I was surprised to find the answer to the one area of immigration policy over which my mind was not already completely settled – namely the issue of what approach we should take with regard to illegal immigrants who, aside from their immigration status, are decent members of society (which is almost certainly the majority of them). It is an issue that did not seem particularly important to me until some people began to try using immigration as a stumbling block for the LDS church by suggesting that local church leaders should be turning in members who they knew were living in the United States illegally.
Anyone reading the title of this post might have first assumed that the old testament approach to illegal immigration would be stoning – they would be wrong.
The Israelites are told directly in Leviticus 19:33-34 that “if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex (or oppress) him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself.”
As I had been reading that chapter the persistent thought in my mind had been, “How is this applicable in our times?” When I read verse 33 it was easy to conclude that we should treat immigrants decently even if they were here illegally. Of course we should prosecute them for real crimes against others (as we should for all people regardless of their legal status here) but simply being here illegally does not constitute such a crime.
Some will argue that illegal immigrants inherently steal resources from legal residents but in making that argument they always admit to breaking one of two other instructions from this chapter. Sometimes the argument is that we have left no resources whereby they can subsist throught their own labor as the Lord commands in verse 9 that we should not reap the corners or glean our fields but rather leave these for the poor and the stranger.
More often the argument is that through our social safety net we have shown undue favoritism to the poor whereby they can subsist off the labor of others without relying on their own efforts in direct violation of the instruction in verse 15.