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Drawing upon President Barack Obama’s admiration of Reinhold Niebuhr’s work, this Essay outlines a Protestant, Christian realist approach toward immigration policy, with specific focus on the role of the executive in providing providential leadership. Embracing realism in its political, moral, and theological dimensions, Christian realism offers a pragmatic, yet optimistic, alternative to secular liberalism’s faith in reason by striving instead to adhere to God’s guidance on matters, taking into account the fundamentally flawed nature of man. The specific policy prescriptions described here mirror the twin virtues of Christian realism by promoting the hope in pursuit of the peaceable kingdom and the humility to acknowledge the fallibility of man in crafting the less-than-perfect, penultimate answer. Opportunities for exercising effective executive leadership will be discussed, from negotiating the proper role of states and localities to the promotion of comprehensive immigration reform, preferring immigrant integration to stringent law enforcement as the better means to further hospitality to the stranger.


Reprinted at: 31 Immigration and Nationality Law Review 323 (2010).