By Jim Denison
President Trump spoke to the nation last night from the Oval Office, seeking support for building a wall on our border with Mexico. Democratic Party leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer then responded.
From our inception, Denison Forum has been nonpartisan. Our mission is not to endorse political leaders or positions but to apply God’s word to the questions of our day, equipping Christians to change our culture by engaging contemporary issues with biblical truth.
As a result, my purpose today is not to offer my opinion on the border wall. Rather, it is to summarize arguments that have been made for and against the project, then to consider biblical principles relevant to this issue and our larger influence in the culture.
Arguments for the border wall
The southern border shared by the United States and Mexico spans 1,969 miles. Approximately 700 miles of border fencing have been completed as part of the Secure Fence Act of 2006 signed by President George W. Bush. These barriers are mostly near urban areas and international bridges.
The US Customs and Border Patrol uses patrols to guard more remote borderlands. It spends $4 billion a year, utilizing 58,000 personnel, 16,875 vehicles, 269 aircraft, 300 watercraft, 300 camera towers, and aerial drones.
Despite these efforts, the Government Accounting Office reports that just 44 percent of the border is under “operational control.” Nearly two-thirds are “monitored” while the rest are “low-level monitored.” It also estimates that only 61 percent of those attempting to cross the border illegally are intercepted.
Building a secure fence or wall could make it more difficult to cross our border illegally. When a fence was constructed on the San Diego border and patrols were increased, the number of people attempting to cross illegally dropped from 600,000 in the early 1990s to 39,000 in 2015.
A report from the House Homeland Security Committee (HHSC) released this month documents the urgent problem of terrorists crossing our southern border into the US. This has been a growing issue for years.
In 2006, the HHSC noted that an increasing number of illegal immigrants from thirty-five countries known to produce, train, and harbor Islamic terrorists are using our southern border as a gateway to the US. A number of illegal immigrants apprehended that year were found to have confirmed ties to terrorist groups.
A 2016 report from then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson called for renewed efforts to counter this threat. And smuggling weapons of mass destruction across the southern border remains a threat.
Arguments against the border wall
Building a wall across our entire southern border would be enormously expensive. Estimates range from a low of $10 billion to a high of $40 billion. Lifetime maintenance costs will likely exceed $50 billion.
Critics also note that the wall will require policing since illegal immigrants will attempt to breach, tunnel under, or climb over any fence. And they note that 40 percent of America’s eleven million illegal immigrants came here legally but overstayed their visas. Enhanced border security would not have addressed this issue.
The wall faces significant legal challenges from property owners such as Native American tribes and private individuals who control much of borderland property. Water rights are in question along much of the border. And many of the illegal drugs flowing into our country are hidden in vehicles that would not be stopped by a border wall.
In addition, border walls negatively impact wildlife, water flows, migratory patterns, and genetic diversity in natural species.
Three biblical facts
Last night’s addresses by the president and his critics highlight the divisive, partisan nature of this issue. However, there are three biblical principles all Christians should embrace, whatever our views on the border wall. (For more, see the chapter on immigration in my book, 7 Critical Issues).
One: We are to care for immigrants.
Scripture teaches: “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21; cf. Leviticus 19:33-34; Deuteronomy 10:18-19; 24:19-22; Ezekiel 47:21-23; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5; Matthew 25:35, 40; Hebrews 13:2).
Unless you’re a Native American, you or your family came to this country as immigrants. Scripture is blunt: “Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow” (Deuteronomy 27:19).
Two: Border security is a biblical priority.
God “fixed the borders of the peoples” (Deuteronomy 32:8) and delineated the borders of the Promised Land (Numbers 34:1-15; Ezekiel 47:13-23). We are to guard ourselves against those who would harm us (Luke 11:21; Proverbs 25:26; Nehemiah 4:17-18).
Three: God calls us to pursue both justice and compassion.
We are to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1; cf. Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-14; 1 Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 22:21). At the same time, we are to “be kind to one another” (Ephesians 4:32), refusing to dehumanize or condemn any human being. We are to love everyone God loves, and God loves everyone (John 3:16).
Balancing these biblical priorities is the challenge, of course. The sojourners of Scripture were not illegal immigrants. The one million children who are illegal immigrants in the US did not choose to be so. And many who come to our country illegally are fleeing horrific violence, drug cartels, gangs, and crushing poverty.
As I stated at the beginning of this Daily Article, my purpose is not to take a personal position on the border wall but to help us think biblically about God’s priorities. If we seek to obey our Father’s call to harmonize justice with compassion, we can claim his promise: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).
This is the transforming promise and urgent invitation of God.