Christians at the Border, 2nd Edition

Immigration, the Church, and the Bible

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Immigration is one of the most pressing issues on the national agenda. In this accessible book, an internationally recognized immigration expert helps readers think biblically about this divisive issue, offering accessible, nuanced, and sympathetic guidance for the church. As both a Guatemalan and an American, the author is able to empathize with both sides of the struggle and argues that each side has much to learn.

This updated and revised edition reflects changes from the past five years, responds to criticisms of the first edition, and expands sections that have raised questions for readers. It includes a foreword by Samuel Rodríguez and an afterword by Ronald Sider. This timely, clear, and compassionate resource will benefit all Christians who are thinking through the immigration issue.

Foreword by Samuel Rodríguez
Preface to the Second Edition
1. Hispanic Immigration
Invasion or Opportunity?
2. Of Immigrants, Refugees, and Exiles
Guidance from the Old Testament, Part I
3. The Law and the Sojourner
Guidance from the Old Testament, Part II
4. Welcoming the Stranger
Guidance from the New Testament
5. Where Do We Go from Here?
Final Thoughts
Afterword by Ronald J. Sider
Appendix: Selected Resources


"The issue of immigration has been one of the most complex issues to navigate for Christians committed to truth, justice, and mercy. As an evangelical leader, I am profoundly appreciative that Danny Carroll has provided an insightful treatise grounded in biblical erudition and pastoral sensibilities. Christians at the Border is one of the most compelling and welcome contributions in the national dialogue concerning immigration."

Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president, National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC)

"M. Daniel Carroll R.'s second edition of Christians at the Border could not be coming out at a more crucial time in our country's history, when evangelicals of all political stripes are joining together to push for sensible immigration reform. This updated version reinforces the biblical call for Christians to 'welcome the stranger' and further lays out the case for viewing our country's immigration policy through the lens of Scripture. As the son of an immigrant, as an academic, and as a theologian, Carroll deftly paints a picture of the struggles and merits of Hispanic immigration and why the American church benefits by embracing these brothers and sisters. This is a must-read for any Christian who is interested in immigration reform."

Jim Wallis, president and founder, Sojourners; author of On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned about Serving the Common Good

"Immigration is one of the most urgent issues affecting the church in the United States today. Christians at the Border challenges Christ-followers to address the topic, first and foremost, as Christians committed to the authority of Scripture. Daniel Carroll combines thorough analysis of the biblical texts related to immigrants and immigration with a deep, personal understanding of the many ways that immigration affects people made in God's image. Every Christian seeking an informed, biblical understanding of this complex topic should read this book."

Matthew Soerens, US church training specialist, World Relief; coauthor of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion, and Truth in the Immigration Debate

"As Christians, our decisions for politics, ministry to the afflicted, and church engagement must begin with a thorough biblical study on the subject. This book sets the biblical foundation for understanding the issue of immigration, so that we start from the same point as together we explore difficult questions about this issue. The second edition also includes examples of how some evangelical communities are applying these biblical implications. Carroll's book is a tool for communities who are seeking to first ask the right questions and then fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission with the immigrants among us. Thank you, hermanito!"

Alejandro (Alex) Mandes, executive director, Immigrant Hope,

"As a Christian who cares about justice and the church's ministry to immigrants living in our nation, I am so grateful for Danny Carroll's book, Christians at the Border, which offers a biblical and compelling case for God's concern for those on the margins of society. A must-read!"

Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association (CCDA)

"Christians at the Border dialogues fairly with other views and offers a sensitive and balanced call to Christian ethics on immigration. The book both examines direct commands in Scripture and highlights biblical models and principles, the same way that nineteenth-century biblical abolitionists argued their case for justice."

Craig Keener, professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary

"Danny Carroll's lovely Christians at the Border is the best available treatment of how Christians should feel, think, and act concerning the issue of immigration. In a remarkably concise way, Carroll offers key historical, legal, and (most importantly) biblical considerations relevant to Christian engagement with immigration--and immigrants. The book is enriched profoundly by the author's own bicultural background and perspective, which makes it possible for him to speak to both Hispanic and Anglo readers with equal insight and grace. This is the book that needs to be in every Christian's hands right now as our legislatures debate immigration--and in the days and years that follow."

David P. Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and director, Center for Theology and Public Life, Mercer University

"This book is a must-read for pastors and parishioners, and also for politicians and policy-makers. The cry for justice that echoes through the pages of the Bible resounds afresh through the scholarly care with which Danny Carroll makes his compelling case in Christians at the Border. Just and comprehensive immigration reform remains an urgent and pressing concern in the United States and beyond, and Carroll nourishes the debate with a clear and convincing analysis of the biblical imperatives that call for the church to be firm in its advocacy on behalf of our immigrant sisters and brothers."

Jean-Pierre Ruiz, St. John's University, New York

"In a crowded field of raised, often strident voices debating the 'immigrant problem,' M. Daniel Carroll R. wades in, joining other Christian Latina/o scholars, to remind us that the church has a responsibility to view important issues through interpretive lenses that differ from the world's. The Bible, not political wrangling or economic benefits, must be the determining lens for the church. In his book, Carroll argues that when analyzed through scriptural texts, immigration is never about resolving a problem but about heeding God's mandate for hospitality and care for the neighbor. Through careful exegetical work, Carroll reminds us that we all are sojourners, challenged to cross the borders of intolerance and xenophobia and ultimately subject to the divine mandate that we are each our brothers' and sisters' keepers. Evangelicals in particular and Christians in general will appreciate its timely argument."

Loida I. Martell-Otero, professor of constructive theology, Palmer Theological Seminary, Eastern University

"With scholarly depth and pastoral sensitivity, Carroll helps us understand not only the complex dimensions of migration but also how it brings us face-to-face with the crucified and risen Lord in our midst. Taking us beyond polemical debates, he examines our current policies in light of biblical faith and the gift and challenges of the reign of God. As this book becomes more and more of a classic in studies in theology and migration, it calls us to see the God who migrated to us in the Incarnation and in turn invites us to a homeward journey marked by compassion and solidarity."

Daniel G. Groody, CSC, associate professor of theology, University of Notre Dame

Praise for the First Edition

"With a foot in both cultures and a sensitivity to the arguments of all sides, Carroll presents Christians at the Border to sort through the complicated and confusing immigration debate with nuance. He goes further than many studies by examining the question with a theological and biblical eye, a factor frequently ignored in what is often a shrill debate. Perspective is what such a complicated discussion requires, and that is what this book delivers. Read and learn."

Darrell Bock, executive director of cultural engagement and senior research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

"Immigration issues grip American politics and opinions. But what does the Bible say? What is at the heart of the Christian view on immigration? Danny Carroll's voice on this issue is like no other. He is bilingual and bicultural; he is a Bible scholar and a committed Christian. Let him help shape your thinking and challenge your heart to be thoroughly Christian."

Leith Anderson, president, National Association of Evangelicals; pastor, Wooddale Church

"Combining prophetic zeal with a tender, pastoral tone, Professor Carroll calls on Christians to adopt a distinctively Christian disposition to the issue of undocumented immigrants and even more importantly to the people who find themselves in this situation. He argues convincingly that for Christians, the ethic of compassion and commitment to the well-being of the marginalized must take precedence over legality. If we heed his plea, immigrants will know when they encounter us that they have crossed the border into a land of distinctively gracious people."

Daniel I. Block, Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College Graduate School

"Danny Carroll's goal of providing Christians with a biblical and theological framework to participate in the US immigration debate as Christians is met brilliantly in Christians at the Border. He addresses both the complexities of the issues related to migration in a globalized world--within the specific history of the United States--and the broader biblical perspective that begins with the reality that all humans are created in the image of God. Even as he acknowledges that the Bible does not give us a specific policy blueprint, he demonstrates that Scripture provides important and clear principles that allow us to address the issue from a Christian perspective. Carroll recognizes that the political debate is complex, but he challenges us to use Scripture as the basis for our response instead of the positions advocated by our political perspectives. He invites us to balance respect for US law with the need to use biblical principles to work toward a change in immigration laws. Christians at the Border provides Christians of various political perspectives a framework from which to begin a conversation together about how to address the issue of immigration in the United States."

Juan Francisco Martínez, associate provost for diversity and international programs and associate professor of Hispanic studies and pastoral leadership, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Professor Carroll's grasp of the problems presented by immigration--political, economic, and familial--is balanced, restrained, and profound. On one level the book is a thorough presentation of the 'secular' facts, and on a deeper level those facts and problems are brought into contact with biblical and theological insight. Evangelicals will be well informed on both levels. Catholic leaders, too, with their steadily developed approach to the same problem, will find in Professor Carroll a complementary and supporting vision. The need for a specifically Christian approach, a vision of the welcoming of the stranger, is evident, and Professor Carroll supplies that need admirably. Protestants and Catholics of all political leanings need to pay attention to this book."

William M. Shea, director, Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture, College of the Holy Cross

"This is a very well researched book. Danny Carroll R. has the kind of scholarly background in biblical studies and cultural anthropology that the subject calls for. He articulates well the facts, questions, and perspectives. He proposes answers, or at least gives suggestions, that are both compassionate and realistic, and he does so from a soundly biblical and distinctly Christian point of view. But this is not just a well-researched book. The author has both personal history and experience that make him the right person to approach the current immigration issues in a penetrating and sympathetic way. This man and his book deserve serious consideration in the current debate."

Richard E. Averbeck, professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages and director of the PhD (theological studies) program, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"It is easy to look at the immigration issue through the lens of economics, national security, or even national identity. But Christ's followers are obligated to look at the issue through the lens of Scripture. As we do, we find not only that this topic is close to the heart of God but also that his laws have implications for the way we should respond today. In this biblical primer on immigration, Danny Carroll does not make policy recommendations but does provide attitude checks for believers as we enter the great immigration debate taking place in our country. With the skill of a biblical scholar, the heart of a prophet, and the rich background of a Guatemalan-American, Dr. Carroll speaks Solomonesque wisdom that will help us all."

Don Sweeting, president, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

"Christians at the Border is a timely, must-read book for the church in the United States. Hispanic immigration is having an impact on every facet of the American landscape. The thinking of many American citizens concerning Hispanic immigration is being shaped by heated and emotional political debate both locally and nationally. There seems to be no easy solution to this issue, and political demagogues only make matters worse by creating a culture of fear and anxiety for both citizens and immigrants. M. Daniel Carroll R.'s book helps us think through this complex issue clearly and soberly by presenting a well-documented historical and biblical perspective on immigration and people movements. This book will help the American church see God's heart on this matter and act sensibly, compassionately, and biblically toward the stranger or alien living and working among us."

Dennis J. Rivera, district superintendent of the Central Latin American District Council of the Assemblies of God, Denver, Colorado

The Author

  1. M. Daniel Carroll R.

    M. Daniel Carroll R.

    M. Daniel Carroll R. (Rodas) (PhD, University of Sheffield) is Blanchard Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School in Wheaton, Illinois. He is also an adjunct professor at El Seminario Teológico Centroamericano in Guatemala City,...

    Continue reading about M. Daniel Carroll R.


"This edition updates readers on sociolegal data on immigration and expands on the biblical foundations for how Christians should relate to immigrants, refugees, sojourners, and strangers--those in exile. As the son of a Guatemalan mother and an American father who grew up in a bicultural and bilingual household, Carroll stands between the Hispanic culture and the U.S. majority culture. Since Carroll is also a biblical scholar and the immigration spokesperson for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, he is certainly qualified to speak on this issue."

Rebecca Y. Kim,

International Bulletin of Missionary Research

Praise for the First Edition

"This well-argued and carefully researched study draws on biblical precedent to construct a viable Christian ethic on contemporary immigration. Carroll . . . focuses primarily on Hispanic immigration to the U.S. in his examples, though the theological discussions are applicable on a broad intercultural level. He explores biblical notions of the responsibility an ancient society had to assist sojourners and those in exile, attempting to move today's discourse about immigration away from political and racial ideology toward what he hopes is 'a divine viewpoint.' Though Carroll's approach is substantive, even scholarly, the book is surprisingly accessible in language and tone."

Publishers Weekly

"[Carroll] brings his professional expertise and personal heritage to this brief examination of Hispanic immigration, a hot topic in the current political climate, in light of the Bible. . . . This brief treatment is an excellent addition to the literature of biblical theology and a valuable contribution to the debates on immigration in this country. Highly recommended for academic libraries, particularly those with intercultural or religious studies."

Ray Arnett,

Library Journal

"The book doesn't provide an easy answer to one of the most contentious public policy issues facing our country. There aren't any. What it does is implore Christians to expand the lens with which they view Hispanic immigration beyond merely an economic or political one. . . . Carroll guides us through the stories of biblical migrants and refugees, the forces (which are remarkably similar to those of today) that drove people to leave their homelands, and Hebrew laws on the treatment of the sojourner. He also draws lessons from the gospels and Jesus' embrace of the outsider. The extensive scriptural evidence, paired with sections at the end of each chapter outlining their implications for today, makes this book a relevant resource for Christians hoping to engage in this issue. . . . [Carroll] has laid out an effective case for God's heart for the immigrant. Indeed, partisan debates over tax burdens or benefits to the economy will never lead us to a meaningful fix of our broken immigration system. For the thousands of communities and congregations struggling with this issue, productive dialogue can only happen when it is grounded in respect toward outsiders and recognition of their dignity. Fortunately, Christians at the Border is an excellent tool to guide us through that process."

Patty Kupfer,


"Attempting to be fair and inclusive, the author has delivered a thoughtful treatise."

DeWayne Hamby,

Christian Retailing

"Although he does not offer policy solutions, Carroll does dig into one of the central questions his text seeks to ask and answer: What does the Bible say about immigration? . . . He always returns to strong examples that non-theologians will understand. . . . Carroll also selects biblical passages about immigrants' plights that are especially relevant today, like the hard conditions the Israelites endured after they fled to Egypt. . . . Such examples may convince readers that the Bible does have a lot to say about immigration that can be applied to the current debate. . . . Carroll's tome offers a well-researched, fresh perspective on the immigration debate."

J. C. O'Connell,

Colorado Independent

"Wonderfully accessible. . . . It is a delight to commend [this book] to you. [It is not] too long to be out of reach for busy people, and though [it is] scholarly, [it is not] academic and dry but lively and practical. . . . [It] is thoughtful, careful, and biblical. I recommend it first, because it helps Christians gain the perspective of Scripture to bring clarity to a complex political and legal issue, and second, because it is a superb model of how Christians can root their political convictions about current issues on the truth of God's word in Scripture. . . . Why haven't we done this sort of study before taking a position on the topic [of immigration]? Though applying what the Bible says will take courage and holy-spirited creativity, neglecting what it teaches is foolish for those who claim to believe Scripture is God's word, written. . . . [Carroll] helps root this highly charged political issue in solid biblical study--to help us get started. We highly recommend [this work] to you. Read [it] carefully. Discuss [it] with friends. And for the sake of God's glory, the honor of Christ, and the grace of justice and freedom, put [it] into practice."

Denis Haack,


"Confused about one of the hottest issues in modern American politics--illegal immigration? Don't miss Christians at the Border. . . . The author (with Hispanic and Anglo origins) brings a healthy and balanced look at how immigration is affecting the U.S. and the American church."


"Carroll's objective with this brief book is two-fold: to focus the hermeneutic through which we analyze and argue immigration policy and to establish a foundation on which possible solutions can be launched. On both counts he is successful. . . . Addressing immigration as biblically informed Christians requires a substantial foray into the scriptures, and this volume does an excellent job of guiding readers through the Old and New Testaments. . . . True to his stated objective, Daniel Carroll has done a fine job of describing a hermeneutic by which the Christian can analyze the issues surrounding mass immigration. . . . There is much that is valuable here."

Warren Rachele,

Prism ePistle

"Proposes to root Christian engagement with the complex issue of immigration in the biblical message. . . . This helpful study from an Evangelical scholar contributes to the growing number of biblical explorations of this important topic."

Donald Senior, CP,

Bible Today

"Carroll has written a primer for an honest theological approach to the heated debate concerning illegal immigration. His most important contribution is that he considers the position of undocumented immigrants from a Christian perspective. His study is revelatory and complex. . . . This text is a courageous step toward relating to undocumented immigrants from a biblical theological framework."

Daniel Orlando Álvarez,

Religious Studies Review

"A wonderful and timely contribution."

Journeys (Hispanic Theological Initiative newsletter)

"Christians at the Border provides much-needed information and imagination to motivate and impassion the US American church to heed the biblical mandates to love the exile, stranger, sojourner, alien, and foreigner. . . . [Carroll] faithfully and systematically develops the treatment of foreigners in Scripture. . . . One of the many strengths of the book lies in the abundance of biblical references cited. Carroll does not just sprinkle Scripture throughout to proof-text his personal views; instead he works from the biblical evidence to be led to conclusions. His presentation of both familiar and less-familiar passages is a bold liberation of the Americanized theology delivered weekly to Christians who have only known Jesus Christ in red, white, and blue. The book's forte is its generosity of spirit. . . . The concluding notes and resources are detailed and provide further opportunity for study and practical action regarding immigration issues."

Hanna Helein,

Journal of Latin American Theology

"[A] great work on immigration. . . . A must-read for these times."

Byron Borger,

"M. Daniel Carroll Rodas . . . brings the perspective of one who can navigate the diverse worlds of majority and immigrant cultures. Born to a Guatemalan mother and an American father, Carroll is able to occupy an important interstitial space within American society, which permits him to engage and understand the emotions, struggles, and expectations that emerge from those milieu. . . . The text is devised as a primer for a biblically and theologically informed approach to the topic of immigration, presenting the core issues, defining terms, and making its argument readable and accessible to the specialist and non-specialist alike. . . . The author presents a balanced discussion which takes into account the struggles and difficulties of the host culture and the immigrant community. I particularly valued the way in which he brings the concepts of cultural hybridity, multiple loyalties, and trans-nationalism into the debate. . . . I recommend Christians at the Border as a coherent and informative introduction to the complex topic of Hispanic immigration."

Luiz C. Nascimento,

Koinonia Journal

"Written in clear, accessible language, this book will help many who wish to relate their faith to the issue of immigration. . . . By showing that theological assumptions are prior to and of greater importance than political-economic pushing and pulling, [Carroll] has taken a long step forward in reframing the issue in such a way that it might align with Christian ideals."

Kent A. Van Til,

Journal of Markets & Morality

"It is hard to underestimate the timeliness of Carroll's Christians at the Border for Christians living in the United States . . . and seeking greater wisdom on the relationship between immigration, the Bible, and life as a Christian. . . . As someone whose very life traverses the borders of Guatemala and the United States, Hispanic and Anglo America, Carroll brings a sensitivity that moves his role beyond interlocutor to translator, mediator, even perhaps an 'ambassador of reconciliation.'. . . Christians at the Border is accessible to a broad audience, an audience well beyond academic circles but with enough citations to set the critical researcher off in a good direction. It would be a particularly helpful book to use in Sunday School classes, Adult Bible Studies or reading groups as well as discussions groups for older teenagers. College ethics classes would benefit greatly from the discussion it generates and Carroll's dogged refusal to oversimplify. A strong combination of pastoral and academic literature, I found this book [a] useful . . . tool for discipleship. . . . This is an important call for all Christians to engage people, politics, and economics in such a way that they may be commensurate with the life of Jesus."

Jamie Gates,

Church Librarian

"[Carroll] offers a sound biblical and theological framework by which Christians as Christians might participate in the [immigration] debate. He is particularly well placed to do so. A distinguished biblical scholar, his personal history and experience as someone who stands between the majority culture and the Hispanic culture give him unique insights into the issues. . . . This fine book is intended as a starter to stimulate biblical and theological reflection. As such, it is a valuable resource for Christians of all traditions in the UK as well as in the US. In a context where views on immigration are frequently coloured by tabloid prejudice, it spurs the reader to seek a deeper wisdom."

Fleur Houston,

Theological Book Review

"This is the book to start with if one wants a compelling, informative, faith-based introduction to this complex issue. I think it is [a] very fair treatment; it admits to complexity, yet moves towards generosity, rich with theological integrity. Even if you don't agree, it is important."

Byron Borger,

"A much-needed 'primer for a more biblically and theologically informed approach to the topic' [of immigration]. . . . [A] brief but balanced and well-documented study. . . . Son of a Guatemalan mother and an American father, Carroll has spent much of his life in Central America and among immigrants in the United States allowing him to . . . successfully describe life lived 'in the hyphen' (Mexican-Americans, Cuban-American, etc.). . . . Nonpartisan church leaders will find that Carroll provides them with an invaluable resource for helping the church examine the values and principles that inform Christian responses to the so-called 'immigration dilemma.' But more importantly, this volume will help inform their responses to immigrants themselves."

Daniel A. Rodriguez,

Stone-Campbell Journal

"[Carroll] demonstrates Christian compassion amid the difficulties of dealing with the subject [of immigration], provid[ing] a brief though articulate middle ground position based on the principles of the Old Testament. . . . The bibliography enlarges the horizon of any interested reader seeking other works, both secular and religious, about the topic of immigration. Carroll's suggestions are incisive and worthy of reading. They are valuable to people in churches, both lay and pastoral, especially in areas of the country where immigrant populations abound. Providing a realistic Christian ethic, it can be used as a study guide for congregations interested in ministering to foreign born populations."

David F. D'Amico,

Review and Expositor

"Carroll accomplishes, extraordinarily, the purpose of his book, which is to offer a thorough, yet not exhaustive, examination of the history of Hispanic immigration, biblical-theological insights, social-political dynamics, and praxis-oriented pastoral approaches to the issues raised within the church by the many undocumented Hispanic members of our congregations and communities. . . . For those who want to become well informed, Carroll provides a well-documented, well-researched book on immigration, without reverting to scholarly minutiae. Christians at the Border would serve beautifully as a primer for pastors and lay people who seek to understand the challenges of immigration and to provide adequate ministries to the increasing number of immigrants in churches, communities, and society at large. The book provides excellent material for entry level courses in urban ministry and missions for college and seminary students. It is also suitable for church study groups and adult education classes."

Samuel Cruz,


"[A] short, engaging, and accessible volume. . . . Christians at the Border is designed to resource the ordinary reader--to be useful and relevant--and it does this very successfully. . . . The strengths of this book are multiple. Not only does Carroll grapple with an impressive range of economic, political, and biblical material in a clear and concise way, he also presents the perspectives of immigrants and members of established populations on their own terms. His engagement with scripture avoids naïve parallels. . . . The line between accessible simplicity and nuanced depth is expertly negotiated. . . . The conclusion and appendix point toward action, suggest further literary and web-based resources on immigration, theology, and Hispanic experience and list religious organizations engaging with the issue. . . . Christians at the Border offers seminary students, ministers, and church members a valuable introductory guide to immigration which informs and also challenges."

Susanna Snyder,

Political Theology