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Religious history is replete with God-fearing people fleeing for their lives. From ancient Israelites and Pilgrims to Mormon Pioneers and Middle Eastern Christians, millennia of persecuted believers have been forced to flee their homelands in order to find a free nation where they could exercise their unalienable right to worship according to their own conscience.

Thanks to the goodness of a Divine Creator, those of us in the United States have been blessed with such religious liberty, along with scores of other protected freedoms acknowledged by the inspired texts of this nation’s founding, such as rights of life, property, self-defense, association, and of course speech.

Is it any wonder that millions of foreigners long to be free? By any means necessary? I’m not defending lawless action, but how could I not understand the desire to live in the freest, most prosperous nation in world history? Who wouldn’t?

The United States of America is a shining city on a hill, and I have compassion for anyone seeking to ascend to its ranks. I want everyone to be free.

For many, compassion alone is reason enough to open our borders to any and all who seek entry. “After all,” they say, “the Israelites were illegal immigrants too.” Or, perhaps more commonly, “Jesus was a refugee.”

Before I go on, I must acknowledge that an appeal to the Bible typically holds little water in political discussion, primarily because many audience don’t foster the same respect for the source material. But I want to speak specifically to those who do hold the Bible in high esteem, those whose justification for liberal immigration policy stems from the plight of Israel in Egypt’s land. So just this once, let’s appeal to the Bible.

The first mistake often made in drawing these comparisons is the muddling of key language. Notice in my example that I called Israelites “illegal immigrants,” which is how a friend of mine referred to them last week. The phraseology is understandably tempting, but it presents a misleading account of history.

In the strictest sense, an immigrant is merely someone who establishes permanent residence in a foreign country. The children of Israel undoubtedly sought to inherit the Promised Land, but to characterize them as immigrants is simplistic, as if all they wanted was a better climate, economy, or social environment.

Israel was not just going to point B; it was fleeing from point A. These travellers can be far more accurately described as refugees, which the United Nations has officially defined since 1951 as:

“A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

I’d hazard a guess that most illegal immigrants from Mexico, for example, are not seeking asylum in the United States of America based on persecution for being Hispanic, Catholic, Mexican, or socially conservative. They seek better opportunity, certainly, and many of them deserve to have it, but let’s keep apples and oranges in their respective crates.

I fully welcome refugees of all creeds, ethnicities, and nationalities — but that doesn’t mean I can’t also support sensible vetting, such as Trump’s now infamous travel moratorium to make vetting refugees more efficient; to weed out threats to national security; and to prioritize those most in danger, such as Middle Eastern Christians.

I support now-defunct policies allowing Cuban refugees to remain in the United States once discovered in U.S. waters, later limited by Bill Clinton to those who successfully reached U.S. soil (known as “Wet foot, Dry foot”), and ultimately dismantled by Obama in his final weeks in office.

Like these heroic survivors of a murderous communist dictatorship, Israelites, Jesus, Pilgrims, Mormons, and Coptic Christians were/are all refugees, fleeing tyranny in a last-ditch hope to be free. That is something we welcome in America.

As for supposedly “illegal” border crossings in the Bible, I would kindly ask you to direct me to the portion of scripture containing said immigration laws, followed by a reference to where the law was specifically broken. Obviously, Canaanites at Jericho had their wall, but God ensured that His people prevailed.

(Let’s make a deal: we build the wall, and if would-be immigrants come blowing trumpets and God makes the wall fall down, they can stay).

If God wants His people to inherit your land, you don’t stand a chance — so don’t worry. And if you’re meant to cohabitate with an influx of a new cultures, then there’s nothing wrong with ensuring that you hold compatible values.

One story in the Book of Mormon describes a formerly wicked people who, following their conversion and subsequent persecution, seek asylum among their lifelong enemy, the Nephites — a righteous civilization. But rather than demand acceptance, these refugees submit themselves for consideration. The Nephite people deliberate and, finding the repentance of their former rivals sincere, grant them sanctuary.

A civilization founded in Western culture has a God-given right to demand that its citizens assimilate to Western values. It is precisely these values that recognize our unalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and religious exercise. We cannot hope to sustain these precious freedoms while simultaneously importing those who would do away with them.

This is why we establish security, such as a wall and vetting. Securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity is paramount if we hope to remain free. The greatest compassion is in protecting freedom for all.

And insofar as refugees, religious or otherwise, are committed to the furtherance of individual liberty and responsibility, they are welcome in the United States. The more the merrier.