Do illegal immigrants sin mortally by living a lie?

I understand that many illegal immigrants, who have gotten into this country unlawfully, often at risk to their lives and those of their families, find themselves in a situation where they have to “live a lie” — using fake or stolen social security numbers, forged documents, lying about their immigration status, not paying taxes lest they betray their illegal status, and so on. People who risk their lives to get to the US do not make such a decision lightly, sometimes it is their only choice in life.

Do these people ever sin mortally in so doing? It is true that they have to tell lies to keep from being discovered, and they have to keep telling these lies and are unable to promise that they will stop telling them. Are these lies so grave as to constitute one of the three conditions for mortal sin? They are fully aware of what they are doing, but they do not want to tell these lies — given the choice, they’d rather not, but they do not have this choice, short of leaving the country and returning home. Sometimes they have established new lives here — purchased homes, raised their families, perhaps even having gotten married and so on.

It is very easy to argue that the laws are unjust, that they should be able to get visas to be here legally without fear of being deported. We do need the workers, to do jobs that Americans don’t want to do, and their labor enhances the quality of life of all Americans, and makes our country wealthier. They contribute substantially to our country, and we would have real problems if they weren’t here to do the work (agricultural work, construction, housekeeping, poultry processing, landscaping, etc.). A case can also be made that certain territories (the states of the southwestern US) were taken from Mexico unjustly, and that they are doing no more than violating immigration laws that shouldn’t even exist in the first place, if they have settled in these territories — basically, you could argue, they are in Mexican territory under American occupation. We are not the only country that has occupied foreign territory and made it their own, sometimes with “ethnic cleansing” — Pomerania, Silesia, and Prussia incorporated into Poland, eastern Polish territories incorporated into the USSR, and so on.

Even if the sins are venial (taking into account the fact that they are acting under duress by having to lie, or that the lies do not rise to the level of objectively grave sin), I dislike the idea of someone going to confession and saying, in effect, I repent of all my mortal sins, but there are certain venial sins that I have to keep committing, and I cannot resolve to stop them. But that is easy for me to sit back and say, in that I am a US citizen living a comfortable life, and not having to commit continuous venial sins to keep my life from falling apart, and the lives of those I care about.

10 characters

No, the same reason stealing food when you are starving is acceptable.


Yes? You can proclaim someone, anyone, guilty of Mortal Sin?

I would say judgment is left to the Lord.

If a person entered the country in fear of their lives, had they remained in their homeland, did they willingly commit a sin? If a person entered the country for any reason, do we know with absolute certainty that that person knew they were committing a sin?

Is immigration even grave matter?

Mortal sin requires grave matter, willful knowledge, and full consent.

This is why only the Lord can determine whether the salvation of an individual has been placed in jeopardy (my the commission of Mortal Sin). I can’t, you can’t, none of us can…except the Lord!

Be at peace!


I have a difficult time thinking that Pope Francis, of all people, would take such a stance.

If I were a confessor, I think I would advise the penitent that these lies are arguably not gravely sinful in themselves, and encourage them to pray that they will eventually be in a situation where they don’t have to deal with the scenario. I know this flirts with “end justifies the means” territory, but I couldn’t neglect the fact that it would also be evil to come out of the shadows and destroy your family’s life and welfare in the process. Again, it is easy for me to sit back on my high horses and “bind up burdens too heavy to be borne, and not lift a finger to carry them myself”.

I’d like to see a situation where illegal immigrants could submit themselves for documentation with no questions asked, and be put on the track to permanent residency or citizenship — give them a real SSN, enable them to pay taxes without fear of deportation, and regularize their status.

1 Like

I don’t presume to judge them, or anyone else, guilty of mortal sin. I would make every excuse for them that I possibly could. This would not include criminals, gangsters, or drug dealers. I’d arrest and imprison them in a skinny minute (and leave their souls in the Hands of God). I’m referring to good, honest, hard-working people who need to be left alone to build better lives.

Mark 12:17

“And Jesus answering, said to them: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.”

We must obey Just Laws. That includes the Immigration Laws of a specific country.


I would say in most cases that no, it is not mortally sinful.

Me too. I see only three main solutions to our current immigration problem:

  1. Deport 12 million+ people.
  2. Find a way to regularize their status.
  3. Do nothing.

Is option one really viable, economical, or even moral? I don’t believe so. Doing nothing doesn’t solve anything either. So I think the only viable option is to find a way to regularize their status. Whether through a path to citizenship or by permanent residency. Then, they can transition into society smoothly, start paying taxes, etc. In the end, I believe this would help the economy.


All I can say is I would not want to be in their shoes and have to make the decision to do what they have to do. It is sad and it is a shame that to have a decent life they feel they have to do what they do to come here. But think about it if every person who needed to come here to this country illegally would do so what would that do to this country and how could we help ANY immigrants come here if the system was abused & completely overloaded. It does no one any good to come here illegally really. . I respect and applaud those who do come here legally, go through the proper channels, wait years for their turn and then become citizens the legal way. I just pray for all who flee because of serious hardship, danger to their lives where they live and the need to bring their children and loved ones out of deplorable situations.

1 Like

“These people” meaning “all illegal immigrants”? I’m not sure one can so easily make that claim.

1 Like

What we oughta do is just have a policy of allowing anyone come here that wants to, but:

Citizenship is closed off. Only the children of citizens can be citizens. No naturalization process. No birth right citizenship.

Give a permanent residency status to everyone here.

Revoke citizenship for the descendants of anyone who came here illegally post 1980.

Then we can be as open as can be without letting foreigners influence our elections

Not sure I understand…are you saying the illegal immigrants are influencing our elections?


But again, even if one accepts that premise, it does not mean that not obeying Just Laws is a mortal sin.

1 Like

Their children, after being born on our soil, then have the ability to vote despite having no ties to our country, do.

I agree with most of what you said except for ending birthright citizenship, and especially revoking the citizenship of those already here.

I say we give permanent residency to all who are currently here. Only deport someone if they commit a felony. Then, make applying for citizenship much easier for those who seek to immigrate here legally. Keep in mind, unless you’re full-blooded Native American, everybody is either an immigrant or descended from immigrants at one one or another, so I don’t believe in closing off citizenship.

Or, if you want to allow permanent residency but close off citizenship to immigrants, at least give children of permanent residents birthright citizenship.

Even they came from somewhere else. They didn’t spring up out of the ground like spring grass.

We can’t rely on immigration for population growth, letting people born of foreign nationals dictate the direction of our nation is suicide.

I could maybe get behind allowing the great grandchildren of immigrants to apply for citizenship.

I mean, that’s how we did it in the 1800’s- Catholics from Ireland and Germany, and then later Italy and Poland, created a huge increase in population. We survived then. What is different now?

Children and grandchildren of immigrants quickly begin to assimilate into American life. I’ve definitely seen it firsthand with hispanic immigrants.


Better than nothing, I guess. But as I said, I don’t think it takes that many generations for immigrant families to assimilate.

1 Like

This isn’t the 19th century anymore. We don’t have vast swaths of unsettled country anymore to hand out farmland.

Our mass immigration strategy is why we have a stagnation in wages for American workers. Too much labor not enough demand.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit