An Open Border Policy Is Not a Biblical Mandate
The security that comes from walls is a sign of God’s blessing and provision.
When the Supreme Court ruled recently that the federal government could remove razor wire on the border between Texas and Mexico that was put in place by the state of Texas, it set off a legal, political, and even theological debate about the federalism and border policy. Despite the ruling, the state of Texas has said they will continue installing the wire, and several states have decided to send state troopers and members of the National Guard to Texas to help the effort.
Yes, the federal government generally has had jurisdiction over what happens at our federal border, but we’ve never faced a situation where the federal government was trying to tear down border barriers to make it easier to illegally enter the country. These are unique times. As Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has pointed out, if the Constitution was intended to force states to accept illegal entry into their borders from foreign governments, there’s no way it would have been ratified.
Since the Supreme Court decision, a political debate has erupted in Washington, D.C. An allegedly bipartisan bill called for the border to be closed if more than 5,000 people per day illegally cross the border, but any support that may have once existed for the bill fell apart the moment it became public.
Within Christian circles, the political debate has been happening in tandem with a theological debate where some appear to be arguing that allowing open borders is a matter of Christian love. On X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Carlos A. Rodriguez, said, “100% of migrants beyond the razor fences were created in the image of God.” The implication appears to be that image bearers of God should generally be allowed to do what they want to do, but he can’t possibly mean that.
Using the moment to take a shot at the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, another X user said, “The southern Baptist convention international mission Board budget is $282,000,000. And the nations are coming to the southern border but Southern Baptists want to see those people trapped in razor wire.” Setting aside the obvious slander about those who oppose illegal immigration wanting to see people trapped in razor wire, the assumption here seems to be that we must choose between fulfilling the Great Commission and respecting the rule of law. But this is a false choice.
The Bible unquestionably endorses the idea of welcoming strangers and showing hospitality. It further calls for the just treatment of everyone, because they are created in the image of God (Deuteronomy 24:17). But that’s not a rebuke of national borders or a statement that people should be able to go wherever they want whenever they want. “Thou shalt not kill” and “that shalt not steal” are not in conflict, they are complementary. They both recognize that people have dignity and rights by virtue of their humanity, which include the right to life and the right to property. Nations are a way of recognizing property that is owned by a community and therefore not owned by those outside the community. This means people inside a community have privileges those outside a community do not have. Like the definition of a woman, this hasn’t been controversial until very recently.
The book of Nehemiah is dedicated to the idea that the security that comes from walls is a sign of God’s blessing and provision. Conversely, the lack of walls is evidence of social decay and vulnerability. God is not troubled that the purpose of walls is to prevent some people from doing things they want to do because He knows some people desire to do things they shouldn’t do, like take fentanyl and victims of sex trafficking across international borders for the purpose of killing and exploiting.
Of course, not everyone seeking to cross our border intends harm, but that would also be true of all the people who might want to sleep in your house tonight if they knew it was unlocked, but you lock it anyway.
The moral arguments being made in defense of open borders aren’t much different than the left-wing moral arguments being made on a range of other issues. It all comes down to the belief that you’re not loving your neighbor if you won’t let your neighbor do whatever they want. We’re supposed to let people come into the country if they want, sleep on the streets if they want, steal iPhones from stores if they want, cut off their genitals if they want, abort their children if they want. The desire itself is the justification. The belief that some greater good could outweigh the current longing of an individual is framed as hatred or bigotry. But none of it is true.
We don’t have to choose between love and order, and anyone who suggests otherwise may be well intended, but they certainly aren’t speaking for God.
Joseph Backholm is Senior Fellow for Biblical Worldview and Strategic Engagement at Family Research Council.