Immigration Policy, Declining Population Growth, the Economy and the Sheep and the Goats

As Christians, should we be more motivated by what Immigrants can do for us? Or what can do for them?

The article, Why U.S. Population Growth Is Collapsing, by Derek Thompson in a recent issue of the Atlantic reminds me of a trend I have been following for quite a few years, now, of declining population growth in Europe and the United States. I first became aware of the trend maybe 8 years ago, and most European countries were already (at that time) at unsustainable growth levels. The US wasn’t far behind.

The article linked above picks up the story as it has advanced in the last two years with COVID. Changing societal norms and expectations have led to significant declines in population growth as younger generations are getting married later in life, having children later in life and having fewer children or no children at all. COVID has rapidly accelerated the decline.

One interesting note from this article is the statement that “America‚Äôs bias against immigration is self-defeating in almost every dimension.” The article asserts (with no citation to authority) that immigrants are vital to our national economy, but I have read the studies and know the beneficial affects of immigration on an economy.

Anecdotally, I know a young woman who is a “Dreamer”. I will call her Sofia. She is the daughter of two undocumented immigrants who found themselves on the “wrong” side of the border with an infant (Sofia) after 911. They figured things would go back to pre-911 conditions when people came and went with no documentation required. That never happened, of course.

She shared with me that her father is a businessman. He has multiple businesses. He employs many people, and he teaches other people to be entrepreneurial. He pays taxes. He pays into Social Security, but he will never reap any benefit from it.

He doesn’t qualify for Social Security, and he never will. If he overpays his taxes he gets no refund. He is always afraid of being found out and deported to a country that he no longer considers his home.

Sofia grew up with the same fear. She grew up with the burden of having to be a perfect citizen. Any negative attention could expose her to to deportation to a country she has never known. She told me she knew from an early age that she would never qualify for student aid or student loans, so she would have to earn way to obtain the education she aspired to.

I didn’t realize this, but I have since learned that the IRS will assign a number to anyone, with or without a Social Security number. The IRS doesn’t care, as long as people pay taxes.

When I met Sofia, she had graduated from high school in three years with a perfect GPA, and she was on pace to finish college in three years. She had a perfect 4.0 GPA, and she planned to go to law school. She was exceptional in every way. (Since then she went to law school where she currently is.)

This story is anecdotal, but it’s indicative of the data that shows that undocumented immigrants are not a drain on our economy. Undocumented immigrants pay into the system, but they don’t qualify (in most ways) to take from the system they pay into. The statistical difference (on average) is $80,000 per person paid into the system more than what is taken out.

We actually make money off of undocumented immigrants. They shop at our stores, eat at our restaurants, pay real estate taxes, pay income taxes, pay into Social Security, provide labor for our employers (who are happy to pay them minimal wages), and more. (The popular assumption that immigrants commit more crime turns out to be false also.)

Not only are we turning our backs on the boost to our economy that more generous immigration policies would provide, but we are entering a “population danger zone” according to the author of the article cited above

All of this is to bring me to the point in writing this article, which is a little different than the points made in the article. I borrow these things from the article and from my research to get to a different point.

How should Christians generally view the issue of immigration?

The article focuses on what immigrants can do for us. Frankly, though, Christians should not have an outlook on immigration driven by what immigrants can do for us. Right? We should be motived by God’s heart for migrants as revealed to us in His Word.

If you have read my blog for years, you know that I have spent hours and hours scouring Scripture, meditating on Scripture and developing a biblical view on immigration. Sadly, polls done by World Relief reveal that only about 12% of evangelical Christians base their view of immigration on the Bible. These are polls in which people self-report the basis of their immigration positions.

When I first sat down to figure out whether the Bible addresses the issue of immigration and what it might provide for instruction, I was amazed at the wealth of instruction and the clarity of that instruction. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I, like the overwhelming majority of evangelicals, had never explored the issue in Scripture before. I wrote Immigration: The Strangers Among Us, in 2014, summarizing what I found.

We can go back to Abraham, called by God to migrate to a land God would show him, and to the Exodus and the mass migration led by God to fulfill the promise to Abraham. We can look at all the times God told His people to take care of the migrants in their midst because they were once aliens in a foreign land in Egypt. God loves sojourners, and so should we, because we are aliens and strangers in this world.

Our core identity as Christians is aligned with immigrants – or arguably should be. Like the nation of Israel who God implored to welcome and accommodate aliens and strangers because they were once foreigners in the land of Egypt, we should have a heart to welcome and embrace immigrants, likewise, because we are aliens and strangers in this world.

We can look at the parable of the sheep and the goats in which Jesus said that our reception in heaven may depend on how we cared for the least people in our communities. Whether and how we welcome strangers is directly linked to our responsiveness to Christ.

The article says that we foolishly resist more generous immigration because we are afraid that immigrants will take our jobs and be a drain on our economy. This is foolish because we actually need immigrants to sustain our economy. We need immigrants to boost our declining population which in turn, will boost our economy.

For Christians, however, we need to be sensitive to the fact that nowhere in God’s instruction to His people or Jesus’s instruction to us does our obedience depend on what the least of these can do for us. In God’s economy, how we treat strangers is more important than what they can do for us.

It turns out, though, that seeking God’s kingdom first and His righteousness results in “all these things being added”. We can’t always count on temporal benefits from our obedience to God, but we can count on the blessings of God exceeding what we might have without Him.

In regard to immigration policy, statistics and studies show that generous immigration laws would be a boost to our economy, and overly restrictive policies are significantly counterproductive. In the end though, I would argue that Christians need to do what God wants us to do, regardless of the potential benefits to us and our nation.

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