Jesus: Anchor Baby, Illegal Immigrant

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

We seem to white wash our own stories-if we read the text closely, we will read that Jesus, too, was an illegal immigrant and an anchor baby.  This cartoon highlights this truth in profound ways.

We would prefer to coo and ah at the pristine baby Jesus found in Christmas pageants.  Here he is chubby with rosy cheeks.  Here he is cute with smiles and giggles.  Our manger is with fresh clean hay.  The animals are robust and clean.   Mary the new mother is pristine in blue and looks like she has just arrived from the beauty parlor and not like she has spent unknown amount of hours in labor, hair matted with sweat.  We do not witness the screams and profanity that uttered from her lips as she labored.  And Joseph, the proud father, not the humiliated man who has just watched his bride to be give birth to some other man’s child.   Yes, Mary is an unwed teenage mother, another shameful truth we dismiss all too gladly from this story.

But here are the other truths of the story that in today’s political climate we would rather not see.  Joseph and Mary are residents in a foreign land.  In order to be in compliance with a census, they must travel back to the land of their ancestors.  It is not their home land.  If it were, then the story would have told of relatives or friends that had no room for them and not the inns.  A more profound story would have been for relatives and friends to reject the coming of the Christ child.   How often is it our own families that reject who we are or who we have become?

But in order for Jesus to be the promised savior he must be born in another country to fulfill the prophecy. “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” [Matthew 2:6] Jesus is an anchor baby, born in Bethlehem in order to claim the rights and privileges of being the son of David.

Shortly after his birth, we read that King Herod orders the killing of the innocent, all children under the age of two. So Jesus and his parents become fugitives under the law and flee once again this time to Egypt. Jesus is now an illegal immigrant with a criminal record. The crime is sedition, being born a king when there was already a king in the land. The intent of overthrowing a kingdom is a felony crime.

When Herod is dead. Jesus’ parents return to their own country, not to Bethlehem where Jesus is a legal resident but to Nazareth. Where Jesus grows up as an illegal alien where he takes the job of carpenter away from other Nazarenes. Jesus does this and yet we accuse undocumented workers of doing something immoral? We admire Jesus, the carpenter, but we disdain the undocumented construction worker?

If this story were to happen in Arizona, Sheriff Arpaio would seek to arrest Joseph and Mary, throw them into Tent City, where Mary would have had her baby with little medical attention. Jesus would still be an anchor baby because the 14th amendment has not yet been repealed. Joseph and Mary would have been sent to a detainment facility to await ICE decision to deport them. Jesus as an American citizen would be sent to an orphanage. Or if the story unfolded a bit closer to the Biblical text, Joseph would have had a dream to flee back into the desert and cross back into Mexico with Mary and newborn Jesus. The trek across the Arizona desert is as treacherous and dangerous as the trek from Bethlehem to Egypt. They would have faced starvation, dehydration, and possible death only to find a wall blocking their way.

If Jesus truly brings good news to the poor, release for the prisoners, sight to the blind and to the oppressed freedom, then Jesus identifies with the struggles for justice that undocumented immigrants cry out to receive. The cry for justice began in their own country where American corporations colluded with the rich to destroy homeland economies forcing thousands upon thousands of the working poor out of jobs. It began in our own country when the School of Americas trained militias to return to their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, Columbia, and others to overthrow governments and set up even worse governments where citizens are killed for speaking truth to power. These injustices demand reparation by our United States Government. Ideally, we would close down the School of Americas. We would limit the influence that corporations have in other countries, and we would seek to assist the citizens to rebuild their home countries. But the least we can do is grant these refugees passage to our country and allow them to make a new way for themselves.

The least we can do is welcome them into our hearts as if they are indeed the Christ Child come to bring glad tidings and healing to the world. Blessings,



  1. […] Wally Campbell I have encountered yet another version of the whole Jesus Was An Anchor Baby (In Your FACE, Righty!)… Sigh. These are always well-meaning, in that they want us to realise that we should treat people […]

    I don’t usually publish pingbacks, but I found this one to be interesting. It’s nice to know that my intentions are well-meaning even if they are misguided.

    Here is what I wrote at her site: I enjoyed reading your comments on my post. I do not believe that I was saying, “nyah, nyah, nyah” nor attempting to be “in yo’ face, righty.” My apologies if that is what you brought to my post, as that was not my intention and I do not believe it is there.

    You make an excellent point of politicizing religion. Yet I believe that Jesus’ birth and life are very political. If Jesus is who he says he is, then he identifies with the immigrant, he identifies with the anchor baby, he identifies with all who are oppressed in his lifetime on earth and speaks to the oppressed of every generation that has lived ever since. To recognize Christ in the least of these is indeed a transformative act which can mold our hearts to be more of that service and grace that you speak of.

    Each of the gospels were written at different points in time to address specific Christian communities. The gospels address specific political realities that were being faced by those Christians. Matthew gives hope to the persecuted. Luke speaks to the heady and overly rational Greeks/gentiles. John combats the gnostic writings that were gaining popularity and threatened a specific form of Christianity. These are all political writings.

    Further, there is very little evidence of historical fact in regards to the infancy narrative of Jesus. There is no record of any census taken during the rule of Herod the Great. The Magi did not exist. ( I am currently reading a 2nd century text that has influenced much of what we add to the Magi story and the star was a vision of Jesus as star not a real star. There are many medieval paintings that depict the Magi being led by a star-child of Jesus based on this text.) And the massacre of the innocents in Bethlehem (it was not countrywide as you allege) also did not occur. Luke and Josephus do not mention it. One would think that Luke would at least have mentioned such a horrendous event. Yes, Herod the Great did live and he did die around 4 B.C. around the time that many believe that Jesus was born. My point, in mentioning this is to strengthen my assertion that the gospels were written for political aims to support a growing Christian community.

    These additional pieces of historical truth allow me to speculate on the identification of Jesus with anchor babies and undocumented immigrants. I believe I am well within my grounds to do so and the transformation of recognizing Jesus as anchor baby, as undocumented immigrant is to change not just our immigration laws but also our foreign policies that created the need for these people to flee their home land for ours. If we are in service to God then we will seek to reform our laws to reflect a more compassionate, a more justice focus, a more humane way of being. We as a nation have sinned and sinned grievously against our neighbors to the south.


  2. Thank you so much, Fred for your comments, about illegal people I cry when I was reading your letter. God bless you.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: