Donald Trump has sent the political world at home and abroad into meltdown mode by his call for a total ban on Muslim immigration. He has received blistering criticism from Democrats, naturally, and from every other Republican candidate save Ted Cruz. The mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, has imposed an immigration ban of his own by prohibiting Trump from so much as setting foot in his fair city. Muslim immigration is the topic du jour.
While Trump has called for a total ban, it should be noted that Sen. Cruz is calling for a suspension of the immigration of Muslim refugees from Syria, and Sen. Paul has introduced legislation that would ban immigration from 34 Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East. The differences between Trump, Cruz and Paul are ones of degree rather than kind.
Two questions must be asked. Are such bans constitutional? And more importantly, are such bans biblical?
The Constitution gives Congress unilateral authority over the issue of immigration and citizenship in Article I, Section 8: “The Congress shall have Power ... to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.” In Article I, Section 9 we find that until 1808 the individual States had authority to decide which persons were “proper to admit.” After 1808, deciding who was eligible for immigration into the United States was the exclusive province of the central government. Congress has unilateral authority to decide who it is “proper to admit” to the United States, and there are no limitations on that authority.
There is no constitutional right, of course, to immigrate to the United States. It is a privilege, not a right. And we the people have given to Congress authority to set parameters for immigration for our protection, our cultural unity, and our national security.
So while it may not be politically correct or politically feasible to implement Trump’s proposed ban, it is not unconstitutional. It is a political and cultural question, not a constitutional one.
For those of us who are evangelicals, there is a second question, which is of greater importance than the first. We not only want to know if an immigration ban is constitutional, we want to know if it is biblical. Did God himself ever impose such an immigration ban?
The answer is yes. With the fledgling nation on the edge of the Promised Land, God instituted a permanent ban (“forever”) on immigration into Israel from two nations, Ammon and Moab.
“No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever.” ~ Deut. 23:3 (ESV)
This was not an arbitrary ban. It was not imposed on either the nations of Edom or Egypt, as Deut. 23:7 makes clear. There were good common sense reasons for God’s ban on the Ammonites and Moabites. “They did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt ... and they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor ... to curse you” (Deut. 23:4).
Ammonites and Moabites were not allowed to immigrate because of their historic animosity toward the people of God and their commitment to weaken them and defeat them. Where such conditions exist today, a similar ban on foreign immigration would have biblical precedent.
Now obviously exceptions could be made and were made on a limited basis. Ruth, for instance, was allowed to immigrate into Israel from Moab. Ruth rejected the ancient hostility of her people toward Israel and embraced its culture and its God. “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:17). In other words, she happily assimilated in every way, included in religious matters, to her newly adopted nation.
She was not only welcomed, but found a place in the line of descent that led to the birth of the Savior of the world.
The bottom line: a ban on immigration from nations which have demonstrated abiding hostility toward the United States is both constitutionally and biblically permissible.
Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul agree. The rest of the GOP field does not. The issue now lies before the American people and their choice of a new president. May they choose wisely.