Monday, January 29, 2024

Monday, January 29, 2024.

It’s Monday, January 29, 2024. 

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview. 

Part I

We are in a Massive Migration Crisis: America’s Borders and the Importance of Responsible Citizenship

The issue of border policy, immigration, naturalization, migration, all of this, is now swirling around us, and there is no doubt that this is an inevitable issue that must be faced by this nation. And even as Congress has dithered and been basically deadlocked on any action for a matter of decades; the reality, is that as a nation, we are losing control of our borders and globally we face a massive migration crisis. All of this demands some Christian thinking. But, in order to understand the scale of what we’re looking at, we just need to understand that right now something like 10,000 people a day, some days more, are coming across the American border. And this is particularly the southern border, although these days, the crisis on the northern border is becoming apparent as well.

And these are people coming into the United States without permission, and thus they are not wrongly described as illegal entrants into the United States. That’s not the wrong category. Every nation as a nation, just by the definition of being a nation, has borders and has a right to police those borders. Indeed, it can be argued that the nation has the responsibility to do that. Even as you look at the most basic issue of citizenship, and this goes back to Israel, it goes back to Rome, Paul acknowledges this when he cites his Roman citizenship, there is a categorical distinction between having citizenship in a nation and not having that citizenship.

Now, you can look at this very simplistically and simply say, “Borders are arbitrary and there is no reason gospel-minded people should be concerned about borders.” But that is actually not an argument that is tenable, certainly not for long. And it points to the fact that particularly on the left, there are many arguments that are supposedly about concern for human flourishing and human wellbeing, but it turns out that such policy arguments would actually lead to disaster. And that’s often the case when you have people arguing against sensible, responsible border policies, and immigration policies, migration policies.

As you look at the problem of migration globally, we need to talk particularly about the current crisis. There is a history here, but let’s just address first the current crisis. Worldwide, there are millions of people seeking to move from one place to another. Now why would that be so? Well, in the vast majority of cases, the motivation is economic. Now we just need to be very quick to say, that’s not an irrelevant concern morally speaking. We understand that someone is looking at an economic situation, they want to better that situation. And as you’re looking at many nations in the world, people come to the conclusion they cannot really better their situation in any satisfactory way where they are, so they seek to go somewhere else where they will have better economic opportunity.

Now, in one sense, we just need to acknowledge that’s a very long historic part of the American story. But, we also understand there are limitations to that logic. And one of the limitations we need to keep in mind is that if you create a situation in which people are simply told, “Borders are no longer important.” Or, “You can just ignore immigration regulations, naturalization policies, immigration policies. You can just go from one place to another and demand entrance.” You’re actually setting up a situation in which there will be massive human misery because governments cannot handle that kind of migration flow. You see that right now all throughout Europe. You see that also in North America. You see it particularly in some places such as the Mediterranean Basin. There, the primary issue is many people coming from both Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa seeking to get into Europe. And there are all kinds of economic reasons why that would be so. For one thing, Europe is not only a much richer region, but Europe also has, in many cases, a very, very expensive welfare state.

And then looking at the United States, you have a similar problem where Central and South American refugees coming through Mexico present the United States with a very clear challenge. We will either have a border and we will police it, we will make it meaningful, or we will not. And we just need to understand that long-term, if we do not, the very notion of citizenship becomes a very, very discounted notion. And many of the people who think they are very broad-minded on this issue, and want to be absolutely pro-migration, they don’t recognize the fact that the recipe that they’re calling for is not going to lead to human happiness, but to human disaster. And furthermore, we come to understand that lessons learned on the issue of immigration through years, and you could put migration and immigration together, they have taught us some pretty hard lessons about humanity.

Now, one of the things that the United States as a nation prides itself on is what we often say about ourselves that we are a nation of immigrants. And in one sense that is of course true. But it’s not an even story in the sense that everyone came in the same way, there have been no rules, and it’s not also true that the United States has never had policies that it later had to correct, that Americans came to believe were wrong policies at the time. That includes some ethnically based policies, clearly put in place in order to limit immigration from some populations during the 19th and 20th centuries. You had waves of immigration, you had Italian immigration, Eastern European immigration, you had of course immigration coming from places like Poland and immigration from places like Italy. And thus you ended up with ethnic communities in major cities. You had Polish neighborhoods in Chicago, Italian and Irish neighborhoods in places like New York City and the region.

And this is to be expected in the American story. But at the same time, there have also been controversies over immigration in the United States having to do with immigrants coming from Asia and other sources in the East. These have been controversial in the 19th century into the 20th century. And yes, every nation, if honest, has, looking at its past, some immigration policies that are both embarrassing and we believe are morally wrong. But that does not mean that a nation can simply then say, “Okay, we will have no policies. We will set no priorities. We will have no naturalization process or we will make it irrelevant.” Even as you look at this, you recognize that citizenship is a very important category.

And for one thing, accepting into the nation by legal means or by default, millions of persons who are not actually expected to gain citizenship, that sets up a very dangerous two-tier system, which, if institutionalized, would simply make American society a two-tier society. That is something that long-term is not plausible. That is not compatible with the American system of government. But that means, that we also assume the responsibility to have a managed immigration policy with very real policies that are actually enforced and with a border that is legally and in actuality meaningful. And right now, that is not the case. And even as you look at, say, two administrations in a row, first of all, the administration of Donald Trump. He was quite successful in limiting illegal immigration coming in across the American border, particularly the southern border. Joe Biden, when he came into office, well, President Biden reversed many of those policies and you can draw a pretty direct line to the chaos right now.

And you also have the fact that governors of states and mayors of cities are crying out for help. For example, just in recent days, the New York Times, that’s a good barometer for us to think about. Here’s a headline, “Democratic Governors Push Biden on Migrants.” And these are Democratic governors of major Democratic states. Why are they crying out to the president for help? It is because they have people who are immigrants, or migrants, coming into their states and cities and stressing every single human services program and for that matter, presenting a challenge that these municipalities and states are simply saying they can’t handle. And not only can they not handle it in the future when the numbers are even larger, they can’t handle it now.

There is a political reality very much at play. In red and blue America, you now have very different understandings of what should be America’s immigration policy or migration policy. And on the blue side of the equation, in the Democratic Party, as is the case on so many issues, the far left has been in ascendancy and frankly, it’s big enough in the Democratic Party to have something of a veto power over any kind of moderate proposal that might be, for example, bipartisan. But even as headlines have indicated in just the last few days, the same thing is true in blue states, where you have a mirror image. There you have, a call for a very restrictive border policy, and there are some people on the right, who are also going to be unwilling to join in any kind of, say, bipartisan consensus legislation.

Just in the last few days, former President Trump, who of course right now is the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, he’s jumped in, and he’s warning senators and representatives on the Republican side that they had better not settle for this consensus policy that is being proposed by–particularly–some in the Senate, and that is not going to go without a pretty big political effect. Now, is that presidential election politics on the part of President Trump? Well, yes, it almost assuredly is. The same thing is true right now for anything you would say about President Biden. He is running for reelection, so guess what? Everything he does right now is political. And in reality, that’s true every second a president’s in the White House or a candidate is running for the office.

But you have two different sets of values that are colliding on the issue of immigration. You have some people saying, “Look, it’s just a human right that you should be able to basically go wherever you want to go and be welcomed wherever you want to land and be incorporated into the society and benefit by whatever social assistance and human assistance programs are available.” But as you look at that, here are a couple of warning signs that would come from someone who would be in a far more conservative position.

And one of the warning signs is this, if you create an economic situation, in which people believe that on a wide scale they can simply improve their lives–in terms of their economic wealth or their capacity for economic development–by moving from where they are to somewhere else, that creates an enormous moral context for which nations are responsible. The United States is not only responsible, I would argue, for having control, genuine control over borders. I think it’s also morally responsible for the incentives that we either set out or allow to be presented for reasons to put their lives and families at risk in order to come to the United States; under some kind of promise that if they get in, even illegally, they will basically find their way in line in terms of the American dream.

And around the world, we need to recognize that the global situation shows both equities and inequities. You are looking at very poor nations and very wealthy nations. The United States is of course among the wealthiest of nations. We should be thankful for that, but we need to recognize that that also requires the United States to be a nation and to act like a nation, and that implies, even necessitates, attention to the border.

There are many other moral issues. For one thing, if you create an industry of human migration, you are basically creating an industry of human trafficking, and that’s exactly what’s taking place. When you look, especially right now, in the Mediterranean Basin, you see so many horror stories of people who one way or another have paid someone, basically pirates in many cases, to take them across the Mediterranean. The boat is unseaworthy, it sinks, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of lives are lost. You have the similar thing taking place throughout much of Central America with people coming from South America, having to go through jungles, very dangerous territory, susceptible to all kinds of gang activity, organized crime, and yet they’re doing so because they believe that it’s in their interest and in their family’s interests to do so.

Now, as we think in Christian worldview terms, and the moral questions that are involved, we need to understand that these have been a part of the American conversation, and before that they have been a part of other national conversations. But we really are talking about an explosion of these issues in the modern age, and these moral issues really do demand our attention and they are not simplistic in the sense that we can simply say, “Yes, we know exactly what perfect policy would lead to the maximum in terms of our national interests, which means the welfare of our people.” That’s not like the nation is selfish. The national welfare here should be redefined, understood in terms of the welfare of its people.

Part II

Legal Immigration vs. Illegal Immigration: The Complicated History of the Matter in the U.S.

The history of this issue in the United States takes us back–of course–to the constitutional period when the Constitution was being written, negotiated, ratified. It was very clear that immigration, in the sense of defining citizenship in particular, was a power to be held exclusively by the federal government. So that is not something given to states. At the same time, there is no particularly comprehensive policy on immigration that was even implied in the U.S. Constitution. Basically, it’s a federal power. But as you’re looking at this, you need to recognize that in 1795, the United States passed pretty comprehensive legislation defining citizenship. And yet in the next century, that will be the 1800s, the 19th century, all kinds of chaos, different developments in the United States on the issue of immigration.

But I need to fast-forward just for the sake of time, basically to the 20th century. Major immigration legislation passed in 1924. And as you’re looking at that, it was quite restrictive, but at the same time it also, was rather targeted. And there was certainly a preference for European migration to the United States and immigration at that time. One of the key things we needed to keep in mind as a date is 1947. In 1947, a program known as the Bracero Program, it had to do with allowing persons from the south, in particular from Mexico, into the United States on something like work permits. When that expired and was not renewed by Congress in 1947, that’s when there was the original surge in what we would rightly call illegal immigration, or undocumented entry into the United States. So there was an immediate surge after that fact in 1947, and then as we move forward in successive decades, it’s clear the problem has just grown. And the problem comes with surges, and then less of a surge. But over the course of the last several years, the surge has been massive and growing.

Now, another thing you need to understand is that when you’re looking at many of the proposals, such as are being debated right now, they’re not comprehensive immigration reform. That has been the label put on what people in both parties will sometimes say is their goal, comprehensive immigration reform. What we really need to acknowledge is that when you are looking at divided America, red and blue America, you’re looking at two diametrically opposed understandings of what that comprehensive immigration reform should be. When it comes to many on the left, it means just about no rules for immigration. It means an amnesty for all those who come in illegally. It means documentation given to undocumented workers, allowing them to stay in the country. It means basically allowing unchecked immigration with very little, if any, border control for people coming into the United States. Now, more on that in just a moment.

But on the conservative side, the big issue here has been putting significant restraint on the entire immigration system, and here’s where a moral category distinction is absolutely essential, and that’s the distinction between legal immigration and illegal immigration. When you look at conservatives in the United States, there is a distinction even on the issue of legal immigration, about what that policy should be. Here’s where it’s interesting to note that many in business and in agribusiness, farming, going back even to the 20th century, it was clear that American industry, big business, recognizes that the birth rate in the United States is not capable of supplying all the workers that are needed in the future. And so there is an economic incentive and frankly a matter of intellectual honesty, to understand that some level of immigration is going to be necessary for a growing and sustainable economy in the United States. Now, that raises huge moral and worldview issues such as the fact that Americans just aren’t having enough babies. That is a moral issue, but that’s not the moral issue of our consideration right now.

The other big issue is that you have agribusiness that needs a lot of workers on a temporary basis. And thus, especially in places like California, in the American Southwest, in places like Florida, there is the need, seasonally, for an awful lot of people to work in agribusiness but not to stay here. And many of them sent remits, that is to say money, back to their families in the nation of origin, and many of them come for a period of time and then go back. Of course, that’s difficult to manage, it’s very difficult to document. But nonetheless, that’s a reality and it’s a reality that the United States has that need and that need is frankly undeniable.

At the same time, the reality is that on the right, on the conservative argument, what you have in the mainstream conservative movement is a call for an immigration and migration policy, a naturalization policy, that fits the needs and the mission and the ethos of the United States of America. And here’s where, if we’re honest, some big cultural issues emerge because between the right and the left, there is also a distinction on whether or not there should be a welcome to a fundamental shift in American culture. It’s just a matter of intellectual and moral honesty to admit that when you are looking at millions of persons coming into the United States, you are changing America’s culture. And there are many on the left who absolutely want that. They actually see that, whether they admit it or not, as very much a part of the goal of a very liberal immigration policy.

There are those on the right who want to oppose that, and they are making the argument that this is an intentional effort to try to displace Americans, who have been here by tradition for a matter of decades and more in terms of influence. But a bit of honesty is necessary to say that as we’re looking at this, there is an economic reality that we need workers, but there is an even greater urgency to the fact that we desperately must gain control of our borders and we must put in place an immigration policy that is reasonable and rational and right for American purposes. And there should be no embarrassment and no hesitation in saying that. A nation that does not have the concern for immigration policies that are in its own national interest is a nation that will not long survive. And frankly, if you understand a nation as a political experiment, a political project in building a community for flourishing within it, it can’t simply ignore this issue as if it’s irrelevant.

You look right now at the fact that undocumented entry, illegal entry into the United States is at such massive numbers. Again, as many as 10,000 and more a day. It’s a sign of the times that when you were looking at this, supposedly bipartisan agreement, one of the things you note is that, at least on the Democratic side, there’s some conversation we need to cut that back to a reasonable number. Like what? And then they’ll say something like 5,000. That appeared in some statements yesterday in the major media. But cutting from 10,000 to 5,000 a day, you could say, “Well, that’s a 50% cut.” Well, even if that were to be accomplished, you’re still looking at multiple thousands every single day, and week beyond that which the United States can handle.

Part III

A Nation That Does Not Have a Coherent Border (And Border Policy) is Headed for Disaster

As Christians look at this, we need to recognize we do have a responsibility to everyone in the world in some sense. But we also need to understand a Christian principle, and that’s a principle of proximity. We bear primary moral responsibility for the people who are right before us. In other words, we are concerned for every orphan everywhere in the world, but the orphan in our midst is the one that we must give moral priority. And we also have needs that, again, the principle of proximity just makes very, very clear. You have in the Old Testament language like the alien, the widow, and the orphan, in your midst. That’s a categorical distinction between all those found anywhere in the world. And it also means that as we’re looking at this, every nation, if honest, has to prioritize how it is going to help both its own citizens and those who aspire to be citizens. It has to make rational choices. And this is where I think the political left in the United States has simply abandoned all reason and quite frankly, abandoned most honesty in talking about this issue.

Now, there are many on the right who confuse it, and there are all kinds of issues of prejudice and discrimination that can arise, but the reality is that a nation that does not control its borders, and that does not have a rational, and righteous immigration policy that fits its national needs as well as being responsive to the human needs proximately presented to it, it’s setting up a disaster not only for itself but a disaster elsewhere. Again, if we incentivize people just to leave where they are in order to come to the United States, regardless of immigration laws, because we don’t control our border, we are setting up, not only a national problem, but international chaos. And for that, we also will bear moral responsibility.

I have to be honest and say I believe that calls for gaining control of the border, even if that means, at least for a time, shutting down the border. That is a very strong argument for the United States to establish at least some knowledge of where we are, some control over the border, some meaningful national policy, and we have a political division in the United States over this issue, that at least for decades has made it impossible to pass anything that can be honestly described as comprehensive immigration reform. That is increasingly impossible with two things, operational. One is, you have completely different understandings of what that reform should look like, but you also have a national campaign including a campaign for the presidency that is a distortion field on this.

For one thing, President Biden has reversed the policies, at least some of the policies put in place by President Trump, but now he’s under pressure from the reality: he wants to be reelected. And Americans are coming to the realization that there’s a huge border problem. He’s under political pressure. Now he’s under political pressure from some Democratic governors and mayors. But what we’ve seen in recent years under the Biden administration is that the left, the far left in many ways, of the Democratic Party ends up being in control, if not able to set the policy, at least able to play the role of a spoiler, which is exactly what it looks like on the left right now.

On the conservative side, well, there is no conservative president in the White House, and thus there will be a lot of political activity among Republicans and others believing that this issue is of such priority that it must play a major part in the 2024 presidential campaign. And I don’t think it takes a prophet to predict that’s exactly what is going to happen. I must be candid and say that I believe the conservative side of this argument is the much stronger argument, but the very fact that we’re talking about an argument actually is a bit misleading because what we need right now is a national argument. And if nothing else, we can only hope that in the 2024 election cycle, this nation has an actual, honest argument, over immigration policy and then does something about it.

Part IV

You Win Some, You Lose Some: Japan Becomes Fifth Nation to Land Vehicle on the Moon — Only for It to Land Upside Down

Well, finally, as they say, you win some and you lose some, and sometimes you tend to do both at the same time. That’s what’s happened to Japan. As the media reported late last week, Japan has now become only the fifth nation to land a vehicle on the surface of the moon. That happened on Saturday. That’s the good news. And the good news for Japan, is that it now is ranked in that very rare number of nations. They become the fifth, to be successful in landing a vehicle on the moon. This is known as a Smart Lander for Investigating Moon or SLIM. However, the headline the next day was not that the vehicle had landed on the moon, but rather that as it was situated right now on the moon, it’s upside down.

Now the good news is, Japan was able to launch the vehicle and get it to the surface of the moon. It landed safely about three miles per hour, survival. It landed upside down, but again, good news, it landed in such a way that its solar panels may enable the vehicle to power up. So again, there’s good news there, but the bad news is there’s really no way for it to turn itself right side up.

One cool part of the story is that just before the vehicle landed, two small rovers ejected from the vehicle and they’ve been moving around the lunar surface. And it’s actually one of those vehicles that was launched from the vehicle, that caught a photograph of the main vehicle, upside down.

So if the vehicle had not successfully landed in that sense, we would not know that it’s upside down. How’s that for a parable of humanity?


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to

I’m speaking to you from Fernandina Beach, Florida, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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