When in Romans... | Sojourners

When in Romans...

Most of us can agree that our immigration system is broken. We are in desperate need of a federal immigration solution that works; however, given the environment in Washington, we are unlikely to get that any time soon.

As a result, many have been trying to address this issue at the state level. Notably, people of goodwill in Utah -- elected officials and civic and religious leaders -- have drafted and signed the "Utah Compact," spelling out five principles for immigration legislation. First, immigration is a federal, not a state issue; second, local law enforcement should focus on apprehending criminals, not undocumented workers. Third, because strong families are central to our society, family unity must be the aim; and fourth, immigrants, as workers and taxpayers, are critical to the state’s economic health. Finally, any solution must value all people of goodwill -- citizen or immigrant.

In March, Utah's legislature passed immigration legislation. Some parts of it -- such as a guest worker program -- were in keeping with the spirit of the compact, but much of the legislation, including an Arizona-style enforcement bill, wasn't. Despite this mixed result, the Utah Compact's principles can still be used to drive the federal immigration conversation in a positive direction. While these are not explicitly Christian principles, they mirror closely the values many Christians, on the basis of their faith, hold on this issue.

However, some Christians can’t seem to get past Romans 13 as a justification for enforcement-only immigration policy. This chapter is used by anti-immigration folks to make the case that God has ordained the laws of the earth, and immigration laws are some of those laws, so if people break the (current) law they need to be punished.

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