I appreciated my Berans colleague Bert Wheeler’s post on immigration. But I would like to offer an alternative viewpoint that does not totally disagree with his. I understand that Dr. Wheeler is not suggesting a “no borders” policy. Nor does he deny the necessity to screen criminals or potential terrorists. He also does agree with the need for border security to guard against illegal immigration. But otherwise he supports an “open borders” policy that, as I understand him, would simply allow anyone not otherwise screened out to enter legally, apply for, and receive citizenship. I very much sympathize with his view, but cannot follow it all the way.
The problem, as I see it, is twofold. First, many potential immigrants are extremely low-skilled, that is, they have little or no human capital. That would not necessarily be a problem in an era in which only basic minimal skills are all that are required for most jobs and/or where we didn’t already have a fairly large pool of unskilled workers. But higher skilled jobs are becoming the norm, if they haven’t already. And many low-skilled people already live in this country. In saying this, I am not attacking low-human capital individuals as somehow inferior as persons before God. Nevertheless, they do possess that characteristic to the extent they have very little skill as potential employees. And that has ramifications.
Second, the Federal government and a good many states, especially California, have in place extensive welfare programs. Kerry Jackson wrote this, published in the National Review (january 23, 2018):
“In fact, California recipients of state aid receive a disproportionately large share of it in no-strings-attached cash disbursements. It’s as if welfare reform passed California by, leaving a dependency trap in place. Immigrants are falling into it: Fifty-five percent of immigrant families in the state get some kind of means-tested benefits, compared with just 30 percent of natives, according to City Journal contributing editor Kay S. Hymowitz.” (emphasis added)
If hundreds of thousands of immigrants with low skills come to the United States, our welfare systems will be strained, to say the least, and possibly unsustainable. Moreover, is it fair or just to force everyone else to support this potentially large number of immigrants.
It might be supposed that any large number of low-skilled immigrants would be effectively self-regulating. As the job markets became glutted, they would stop coming. But what about the welfare programs? And would the lack of good information prevent any fast response to fewer jobs?
But let’s also address the claim that Dr. Wheeler’s policy is the Biblical one. The basis for his policy was Genesis 1: 26-31, that all humans are created in the image of God. That is a correct statement with many important implications. However, I cannot see how he went from that true proposition to the policy conclusion he reached. There may be some implied steps in the argument, but they aren’t stated, so I can’t give any good evaluation.
Dr. Wheeler also cites a few other verses that don’t seem to make his case. He lists several verses about “the sojourner.” They are relevant and do refer to a non-Hebrew. But none say how the non-Hebrew got where he was, only that since he is there, he should be treated with dignity under a rule of law, and not oppressed. But he may have arrived through some kind of immigration process, although I do doubt that the Hebrew polity had any such mechanism. The problem though is that those verses are an argument sanctioning an open policy from silence. An argument from silence is at best speculative. Moreover, Dr. Wheeler omits verses requiring the stranger/sojourner to obey the laws of the Hebrew polity.
Of course, if the United States moved to a merit-based immigration system, we would still have to have a discussion about the criteria to be applied for allowing some individuals in and denying other entry. Let’s not pretend that will be easy. Nor should Christians be too flippant about it. I don’t like having to deny people entry to a nation where they might flourish. But on the other hand, if we don’t limit some kinds of people (not based at all on race, etc.), then we could end up killing the “goose that laid the golden egg” and then no one flourishes. Perhaps there is some way to allow those low-skilled people in without promising and delivering massive welfare benefits. Perhaps we could limit benefits to a short time period, on condition that they get jobs within some time frame. Yes, this is a massive economic problem but also a huge moral issue for Christians. Dr. Wheeler has raised one side of the issue, and I appreciate it and sympathize, but there is another side.