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“You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” – Exodus 22:21 RSV
I grew up on a farm that bordered a trailer park of a hamlet in Central Alberta. While living out in the country may seem like a far more isolated lifestyle compared to urban life, it didn’t mean we were always safe. In the small towns surrounding my rural community, the young people didn’t always have a skate park or mall nearby to medicate their boredom. Country kids usually figured out ways to create their own fun. I remember the kids from town used to rip down the gravel roads on their dirt bikes and quads, and sometimes rode into farmer’s fields to tear up the land for fun. It wasn’t a big deal when the fields were bare in autumn or winter, but after seeding time the crops would sustain damage from ATV tracks. There were many occasions when my parents or I would confront these hooligans to remind them of whose property they were treading on, and sometimes repeat-trespassers would have to be reported to the police.
Aside from keeping livestock contained and protected from predators, this is one of the reasons why farmers typically put up fences around their fields – to keep people from trespassing. As a homeowner in my adult years, I’m of the belief that everyone has just as much right to control who comes into their homes as what they do with their bodies. Even nowadays with the #MeToo movement, there is a lot of talk about bodily autonomy regarding respect for one’s boundaries when it comes to sexual relations. As obvious as it may sound, it isn’t difficult to draw a parallel between respecting a person’s right to their bodies and respecting the boundaries of their home or property. Usually when a person is invited into someone’s home, it involves a certain level of trust and consent.
On a much larger scale, I think every nation has a right to control its borders. I highly doubt anybody would want to live in a country where people can come and go as they please while leaving the place less safe, sanitary or orderly than before they entered. But unlike a farmstead or a house, most people are not ‘invited’ into another country while travelling or seeking asylum, but are the ones asking to enter themselves. The consent isn’t initially offered by the homeowners, but requested by the visitors wanting to enter.
It seems as though immigration control is a topic that has created a lot of friction among people in North America – especially Christians. It seems as though support for open borders and a more relaxed security screening is generally a more liberal idea, whereas conservatives seem to support a more strict border patrol. Although I tend to side with the more ‘liberal’ approach when it comes to the subject of immigration, I think there’s a lot more nuance to the issue than what is often hyper-sensationalized in social media or partisan news sources.
I think having open borders is extremely reckless and allows for dangerous people to live in our country. While police and social workers have enough trouble keeping up with drug trafficking, domestic violence, theft and murder within our own neighborhoods, I don’t believe having an absence of border security would do these already-overworked public servants any good service. But on the flip side, having stricter borders seems to show apathy to the rest of the world – especially towards foreigners who are fleeing hardship and persecution. From what I understand, the majority of those who immigrate into Canada and the United States are doing so to seek better opportunities for a better quality of life. While some countries like Canada have been more open to allowing asylum-seekers in faster, there seems to have been an equal amount of animosity towards letting in too many people – especially among citizens in the United States.
It would be naive of us to believe that having an open border would not lead to further problems of crime and civil unrest, let alone the opportunity for terrorist attacks. If any extremist was ambitious enough to try and infiltrate what they see as their enemy, they would most definitely sneak in under the guise of someone who was seeking asylum. What comes to my mind is the story of the Fall of Troy in Ancient Greek mythology. In relation to the Trojan horse, I sincerely believe people who are willing to commit evil at will are going to find ways around their obstacles to meet their objectives – just as some country hooligan would try and sneak past a fence into a farmer’s property to rip up the fields for fun.
This is one of the reasons why I favour a stricter immigration process designed to make it far more difficult for potential terrorists or criminals to pass through security rather than for those genuinely seeking asylum.
While along the topic of security screening, one controversy I ought to address is the separating of children from their families. As a father, the very thought of having my kids taken from me is absolutely terrifying. If I were to put myself in the shoes of someone who had gone through hell to escape persecution only to go through customs and have my children taken away, I would probably react in such a violent manner in an attempt to get them back. Given these thoughts, I imagine removing a migrant’s children would radicalize them, possibly to the point of wanting to commit an act of terrorism. If someone ought to be detained, I believe it would be better off if these families were allowed to stay together – for the sake of their own well-being as well as the nation’s.
When it comes to immigration in North America, European colonization on indigenous territory is often a major talking point. In recent news, a Christian missionary had travelled to an isolated island off the coast of India in an attempt to share the Gospel with the local natives, and was unfortunately killed by them upon arrival. † What I find interesting is how many of those who support more relaxed immigration laws are repulsed by those (namely westernized Christians) who feel the need to enter foreign countries to exchange ideas and culture. On the other hand, what I find equally as hypocritical is how many so-called conservative Christians support international missions trips in countries where Christianity is a minority while simultaneously demanding foreigners to be deported back to where they came from. In both cases, the double-standard reeks to high heaven.
I will say I have no issue with foreign ministry, nor do I desire migrants to be deported (provided they are law-abiding and merely seeking a better life for themselves without infringing upon other people’s rights). While some might consider this to be a form of colonization, visiting a foreign land to talk about an ideology is not the same as forcing people to believe in something against their will. Nor does it mean infiltrating a country with the intention of acquiring political power. Part of our responsibility as Christians is to be a living example of Christ, which involves loving those we normally wouldn’t associate with. For missionaries, preaching the Gospel in all the nations ironically involves a level of humility to become a ‘migrant’ ourselves. If the intent is to love and serve those overseas, I don’t believe ‘doing unto others’ should be a difficult concept to grasp back home.
Another interesting observation I find is how the Bible describes Paradise as a place with borders. From a Catholic perspective, Purgatory could be described as the ‘vetting process’ that helps us become fit to enter the gates of Paradise. Hell, on the other hand, is all-accepting and it’s borders are wide open.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” – John 10:1-2 RSV
“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” – Matthew 7:13-14 RSV
I think it’s our duty, especially as Christians, to support foreigners who seek asylum and help the needy. I also believe it is equally our responsibility to maintain our boundaries as a safe space for these migrants to remain in. It would be most selfish, uncharitable and un-Christlike to turn people away who are desperately running for their lives.
But to abolish borders would be to deport Paradise from our land and welcome Hell with open arms.