Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible. By M. Daniel Carroll R. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2008. Paperback. 174 pages. $16.99.

In Christians at the Border, Daniel Carroll addresses a growing concern amongst lawmakers and citizens in the U.S. America is undergoing massive demographical changes with the influx of immigrants from Mexico. The Hispanic population is ever increasing all across the country, while the Latin American culture is growing more ubiquitous with its food, music, and media. But America as a whole has not been warm towards the growing Spanish-speaking population. The purpose of Carroll’s book is to begin informing Christians with the issues surrounding immigration.

Carroll is an Old Testament professor at Denver Seminary, born in Guatemala and educated in the United States. His bird-eye view of the two cultures—American and Latin-American, is helpful in presenting a fair view of the cultural dispositions on both sides: in his introduction, he explains why he prefers undocumented immigrants over illegal aliens with the reason being that the former is “a more just label and better represents the present reality” (22). His awareness allows him to avoid bias where possible, and defend views where necessary.

The first chapter, poignantly titled “Hispanic Immigration: Invasion or Opportunity?” gives the bulk of the content on immigration in the U.S. with its history and impact. Historically, various people groups have come to the States: the Chinese, Irish and Southern Europeans, and Africans. Carroll briefly looks at the impact and the sobering realities of displacement.

Previous immigration focused on assimilation, a convergence toward a kind of “Americanism.” Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations, explains how the Hispanic immigration differs from the previous flow of immigrants: 1) immigration from Latin America is not an ocean’s way, 2) the number of immigrants exceeds any previous people group, and 3) the enclave of immigrants, called barrios, slows the assimilation process. Huntington reports that the lack of assimilation leads to “declining levels of English language acquisition, less educational achievement, and poorer socioeconomic success” (41).

The Hispanic communities go through an identity crisis themselves—what to do with their beloved Latin American heritage. To them, America means consumerism and individualism. Internal tensions rise as Latin Americans hold on to fond memories of their distant, native land.

Common objections to the immigration are that: 1) they add financial burdens on the local school systems, 2) many are criminals, 3) they drive down the income of American citizens, 4) health care is affected, because hospitals cannot legally turn away patients, and 5) the billions of dollars sent back to Latin American countries are a net loss to the U.S. economy.

Policy makers have proposed various internal and external measures for controlling the flow of immigrants (e.g. internal would mean pressure on employers not to hire undocumented immigrants, and external would focus on controlling the borders or even the flow of money outside the U.S.) Another option has focused on allowing better educated and highly educated foreigners into the country. These range of options and the issues they each target represent only the tip of the iceberg when addressing the complexities of Hispanic immigration.

The purpose of Carroll’s book is not to merely describe the multifaceted problems of immigration; Carroll also offers a starting point for Christians to look at different sides in light of a biblical worldview. The OT is contains a plethora of theological underpinning for the value of human life, as well as illustrations of movement and displacement of individuals and people groups. The Hebrew for identifying foreigners in the OT are varied: nokrî and zār (foreign people of other faith), tôšab (hireling or sojourner), and gēr (resident alien).

The NT offers reminders of Jesus as one who sought refuge himself. He also later associated with the social outcasts. Carroll recalls the church’s new identity in Christ that looks forward to a world beyond the earthly; the believers, now strangers on earth, no longer belong to this world. Christians are also called to be hospitable.

Anyone hoping to find the final word on Hispanic immigration will be left frustrated and wanting. The author’s intent in writing this short work is not to offer an extensive discussion of the topic. Carroll makes this very clear in his introduction as well as his conclusion. The intent, instead, is to get Christians to consider a brief history of immigration, an understanding of economic implications as well as those of faith convictions.

For what the work sets out to do, it achieves a great deal. Reading it, I gleaned much regarding the social and cultural dimensions of immigration. Christians at the Border begins to give a coherent biblical worldview as a starting point for a Christian response. Though some examples from the OT may not have complete analogical connection to the contemporaneous situation at hand, Carroll offers glimpses of the larger picture, for which Christians hope and affect others. This larger picture of the gospel message keeps our thoughts churning and reminds us that wisdom does indeed await us as we seek to understand and form thoughtful views on Hispanic immigration.

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