I am in favor of sanctuary cities. Those who simply want to dump illegal immigrants, particularly those who came as young children, or even as babies, and are now adults, refuse to acknowledge that their ingress through several administrations (both Republicans and Democrats) was approved with a wink and a nod. Their employment would not have been possible if employers had not been openly flouting the law with the semi-open support of local law enforcement. The strongest concentration of immigrants were in the states that most said one thing but openly did another, the Southern states. To now say to them, particularly to the Dreamers, that you are all toast, is not only the heights of hypocrisy, this is where I would argue that the Biblical norms regarding the stranger and the alien are clearly being violated. To simply say that they broke the law, when you refuse to punish all the employers and other people in this country who broke the same law is the type of perversion of justice of which the Bible talks. I will not make the same argument for recently arrived immigrants without documentation, as they came after there have clearly been a few years of warning given that the previous stance has changed.
So, what are some of the Scriptures that speak to equitable justice?
Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,” will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations. But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come on them. — Proverbs 24:24-25 NIV
“For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed.” — Isaiah 61:8-9 NIV
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. — Isaiah 1:17 NIV
The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. — Proverbs 29:7 NIV
Trust me that I could go on. What those who simply say that undocumented immigrants are illegal and that we must enforce the law fail on the issue of justice. True justice would be to “convict the guilty,” and not say to them, “you are innocent.” The failure of any movement in the USA to go after the employers who knowingly violated the law and the rich who knowingly made money that way is an incredible failure in justice and puts anti-immigrant crusaders on the wrong side of Biblical justice. They also willingly and knowingly ignore the “robbery and wrongdoing” that was done to many of the undocumented immigrants, who often were paid less than what the law requires and dismissed in case of any complaint against the employer. This willful protection of half of those who are guilty puts almost all of the anti-immigrant crowd into full Biblical violation. Justice is not justice if it is only enforced against the powerless. But, they are not the only guilty ones.
On the other side, sanctuary cities are often reacting in an unthinking illogical manner as to how to handle being sanctuary cities. They fail in that many in that movement are almost saying that a country does not have a right to control influx. There is no Biblical backing for open borders. There is also no Biblical backing against open borders. Nevertheless, there were times in Israel’s history when certain people were controlled or prohibited. For instance, the Hivites were made slaves for life for lying about their location and their actual nearness to Israel. The Moabites were forbidden from marrying Israelites, or living among them, because of the betrayal that they perpetrated on Israel. Having said that, notice that Ruth is a Moabitess and one of the ancestress of Our Lord Jesus Christ. None of the verses about the alien and the orphan require that Israel have totally open borders. This is a great failure in the claims of the open borders crowd.
One additional problem must be added to the problems that modern sanctuary cities encounter. In what world do you protect a clearly criminal alien who then goes out and kills another person? When your antipathy to the immorality of throwing out everyone goes to the extent of protecting everyone, to the point where you deliberately delay notification of ICE so that a criminal alien goes free, you are the one who is violating Biblical norms of justice. Even in Scripture there was a limit to sanctuary. When one reads about sanctuary cities in the Old Testament, they were for those who had killed accidentally. The deliberate murderer could be handed over. In King Solomon’s time, when one of King David’s generals when into the Temple and grabbed the horns of the altar, he was dragged out and executed. Sanctuary did not apply. Even in Church history, sanctuary in a church had certain limits. Sanctuary cities must not protect people without criteria, otherwise they are the ones who begin violating biblical norms.
The Lord also spoke to Joshua, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Appoint for yourselves cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, that the slayer who kills a person accidentally or unintentionally may flee there; and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood. And when he flees to one of those cities, and stands at the entrance of the gate of the city, and declares his case in the hearing of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city as one of them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them. Then if the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not deliver the slayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor unintentionally, but did not hate him beforehand. — Joshua 21
“He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee. “But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die. — Exodus 21
Notice that the second Scripture says that even if the man who killed by treachery goes to the altar, he shall be dragged from there “that he may die.” There is no excuse for sanctuary cities protecting the criminal alien, except in the case of manslaughter. But, there is actually an example of someone who was dragged from the altar and executed.
So Joab fled to the tabernacle of the Lord, and took hold of the horns of the altar. And King Solomon was told, “Joab has fled to the tabernacle of the Lord; there he is, by the altar.” Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, strike him down.” So Benaiah went to the tabernacle of the Lord, and said to him, “Thus says the king, ‘Come out!’”
And he said, “No, but I will die here.” And Benaiah brought back word to the king, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.”
Then the king said to him, “Do as he has said, and strike him down and bury him, that you may take away from me and from the house of my father the innocent blood which Joab shed. So the Lord will return his blood on his head, because he struck down two men more righteous and better than he, and killed them with the sword—Abner the son of Ner, the commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, the commander of the army of Judah—though my father David did not know it. Their blood shall therefore return upon the head of Joab and upon the head of his descendants forever. But upon David and his descendants, upon his house and his throne, there shall be peace forever from the Lord.”
So Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up and struck and killed him; and he was buried in his own house in the wilderness. — 1 Kings 2
Today, neither side in the debate is reacting in a Biblical manner. Those against may indeed be rightfully accused of a failure to truly administer justice and of protecting the rich against the poor. Those in favor fail to recognize that a country has the right to set border laws and the right to administer immigration law in an equitable way. They also fail to protect the populace against those who have indeed committed crimes. A moderate would say that neither side can claim true Biblical support for their full position. Each side has partial Biblical support and partially violates Biblical principles.
Now, as an Orthodox, I need to briefly touch on Church history. Here I must say that there is no warrant in Church history, in either the Roman or the Byzantine Empires for open uncontrolled immigration. But, there is ample evidence for the merciful reception of refugees and their integration into the existing society. As I have pointed out above, it is a bit of a balancing act. Today, neither liberal nor conservative in the USA area actually engaging in a true balancing act.