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Passover, Exodus and Immigration

Hebrew slaves in EgyptHebrew slaves building the pyramids (source: Chandlerschool.org)

With demonstrations today in New York, Seattle (where I live) and elsewhere of hundreds of thousands (see NY Times coverage) demanding a fair and equitable immigration reform bill from Congress, I took to thinking about Passover and the Exodus. Why? You’ll recall that Deuteronomy 10:19 says: “Do not mistreat the stranger, for you yourself were a stranger in Egypt.”

That’s why I marvel at the Republican ideologues Tom Tancredo and the Minutemen groups which pound the drumbeats of hate for immigrants. Almost all of those who wish to felonize immigration and close our borders with the use of walls, etc. are believing Christians. One assumes that the Old Testament is a book that carries some meaning for them. So what happened to good old Deuteronomy? Did they forget about it? Or do they only honor it in the breach when it’s convenient?

immigration cartoonUncle Sam/Moses “parting the waters for Europe’s refugees”

Our sacred book tells us that we must not look down on immigrants, we must not treat them harshly. We must treat them as we treat ourselves because we were once in their shoes. We were once slaves in a land not our own. We knew the whip and the lash. We suffered as immigrants in Egypt and therefore must not allow the immigrants among us to suffer as well.

My family hails from several European Jewish communities and came here as immigrants between the 1850s and early 1900s. Would I want my own ancestors hounded and tracked down for deportation as the anti-immigrant crowd would wish? Would I want them to find a wall once they got to our border? Imagine what Emma Lazarus is thinking as she watches down on the debates in Congress about how severely we should treat those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free?” If Lady Liberty could express her emotions she’d be shedding a tear or two right about now.

If you’ll recall the story, the children of Jacob traveled to Egypt to procure food during a severe drought. When they discovered that Joseph, their brother had become the Pharaoh’s right-hand man, they in effect immigrated to Egypt where they sojourned for 400 years. Is this situation any different than those immigrants to this country who come here for a myriad of reasons? Why can’t we see these new immigrants in the same light as Jacob’s children in ancient Egypt?

A little mercy, a little compassion is called for. As for those who can’t muster any–for shame. These folks need to go back and read their Old Testament a little more carefully as they are making a travesty of the Good Book.

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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Dan Sniderman April 11, 2006, 7:07 AM

    I wonder how many of these modern day “Know Nothings” ancestors immigrated after the 1850′s when the first major anti-immigrant movement of that name started. If the nation had followed that course then they are proposing now they wouldn’t be Americans…

    As far as the politicians on the right – I find it fascinating how they revere “market forces” as if it were some religious dogma. Is it not these same market forces that lead someone in Mexico to want to labor for the same pay in a day that would take weeks back home?

    My maternal grandparents immigrated from what was then Hungary during the depression. Economics were part of the reason. While anti-Semitism was certainly on the rise in Europe in the late 20′s – and hindsight shows us if they didn’t immigrate they may have perished in the Shoah, I don’t know how much that played into the equation. (And politics played a role as well)

    But how different are ANY native born American’s immigrant ancestor and ANY current immigrant coming here for a better life than what they left behind?

  • Eric Maher April 11, 2006, 10:57 AM

    When Joseph’s brothers moved to Egypt, they were legally allowed by Egypt to do so. When our grandfathers moved to America in the 19th century, they were legally allowed by America to do so.

    Many immigrants move to America today, and are legally allowed by America to do so. But many ILLEGAL immigrants move to America today, and are NOT legally allowed by America to do so. What part of that don’t people GET?!

    If you want to expand legal immigration into America, fine. If you want to fix the rotten conditions in Latin America, fine. But if you want to erase the American borders and nullify American sovereignty, that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

    Remember the “jokes” currently circulating … a rapist is just an undocumented boyfriend … a bank robber is just an undocumented withdrawer.

  • Richard Silverstein April 11, 2006, 12:15 PM

    You are among the most heartless of human beings. And your analogies to Egyptian and earlier American immigration is tortured.

    Immigration is immigration whether it’s legal or not. And laws change as they did in 1924 when the U.S. closed it doors to immigration (thereby indirectly allowing the Holocaust to kill hundreds of thousands of European Jews who might otherwise have fled here to safety & thereby further enriched our own society with their future contributions). Laws changed again around 1960 when the U.S. introduced a visa/quota program which determined how many could immigrate fr. specific countries. Now we’re proposing further changes. I only hope that our members of Congress listen to the will of our immigrant communities & create a sensible, non-punitive law.

    You anti-immigrant folk are control freaks. You want to keep America “the way it’s always been” (whatever that means). You want to keep out the “undesirables.” Only problem is those “undesirables” eventually turn out to people who immensely & immeasurably enrich our nation through their economic, cultural and intellectual contributions. You folks don’t like uncertainty, don’t like taking a chance on people who aren’t “your kind.” That’s too bad because those who are not “your kind” are some of the best kind.

    Your “jokes” (glad you put that word in quotations) aren’t funny & not worthy of the name you attach to them. I’d call them forced “wit.”

    Dan’s comments are, as usual, eminently sensible.

  • Eric Maher April 11, 2006, 2:45 PM

    “You are among the most heartless of human beings.”

    First, you don’t know me well enough to intelligently make that judgment.

    Second, don’t change the subject, which is illegal immigration, not Eric Maher.

    “And your analogies to Egyptian and earlier American immigration is tortured.”

    You mean my referring to the previous writers’ analogies to Egyptian and earlier American immigration?

    “Immigration is immigration whether it’s legal or not.”

    A wholly amoral statement. Not to mention irrelevant.

    “And laws change”

    Therefore it’s okay to break the law?

    “1924 when the U.S. closed it doors to immigration (thereby indirectly allowing the Holocaust to kill hundreds of thousands of European Jews who might otherwise have fled here to safety”

    And THAT’S not a tortured analogy?

    “I only hope that our members of Congress listen to the will of our immigrant communities”

    Listen to the immigrant communities, both legal and illegal? Laughable.

    “You anti-immigrant folk”

    What makes you think I’m anti-immigrant?

    Then you go on and on, making the same mistake you made in your first sentence, trying to attack the deliverer of the opinion, instead of attacking the opinion. Shoddy debate tactic. Leads one to assume you CAN’T counter the opinion.

    “Your ‘jokes’ (glad you put that word in quotations) aren’t funny & not worthy of the name you attach to them. I’d call them forced ‘wit.’”

    A distinction without a difference. LOL

    Would you say both a rapist and a boyfriend may turn out to be wonderful people and great contributors to the relationship? Would you say both a bank robber and a customer making a withdrawal may both turn out to be wonderful people and great contributors to the bank?

    I’m sorry you don’t seem to care if people break the law. I do.

  • Richard Silverstein April 12, 2006, 12:31 AM

    I don’t have the time, energy or inclination to address your sophistries. I have better things to do with my time…like help a few wetbacks make it across the border right under the noses of the Border Patrol. Now that gives me a thrill!

    Perhaps not my funniest lines, but you dour moralists give me so little to work with!

  • Eric Maher April 12, 2006, 6:27 AM

    “I don’t have the time, energy or inclination to address your sophistries.”

    Pretty obvious that you CAN’T defend your position. Perhaps this is your way of saying you now doubt what you said.. I’m now more convinced that I’m right.

  • Dan Sniderman April 12, 2006, 7:06 AM

    Ah the rule of law! Anyone who would violate them is a criminal! But of course, if it’s a white collar crime, well a slap-on-the-wrist is fine! If it’s warrants and wiretaps, well the laws out of date and we have terrorist to stop!

    How many Americans cheat on their taxes? How many states still have laws regulating sexual behavior between consenting (even married hetrosexual) adults? So those are criminals also!

    And as far as amnesty – the number that has occured over time is ridiculous. I read a blog entry recently (too lazy to look it up) that pointed out a high-ranking Bush official of Cuban decent family took advantage of an Amnesty program.

    The majority of Italian Americans are decendants of what would now be called “Illegal Aliens”.

    I personally think all the talk about “illegals” is a smokescreen. I believe ultimately all the fear of immigrants can be boiled down to a majority group fearing losing the majority. Maybe it’s easier for someone like myself who’s self-identity since childhood as being one of the smaller minorities (what are we less than 2%?). I’m comfortable with the idea that in either my – or my daughter’s lifetime – “Whites” (or even English-as-a-first-language speakers) will be a minority.

    My sister already sends her kids to a school system where whites are the smallest ethnic group.

    I understand how scary that can be – but does this make sound public policy?

    One thing truly lacking in this debate is the TRUE economic effects of the most radical proposals.

    What would REALLY happen if those 12 million “Illegals” left the country? We hear the arguements against minimum wage increaases (often from the same politicians who argue that illegals “bid down wages” as I heard Rohrbacher argue on Bill Maher’s show a couple weeks ago.

    If minimum wage was de-facto raised (by those same market forces the right reveres) wouldn’t it have the same devistating impact on “small businesses”?

    What would happen to the housing market (probably the number on thing driving our economy right now) if the cost of construction rises because of the labor cost?

    What about the cost of food? Of dining? The prices of the giant “Big Box” stores like Target and Wallmart that are being cleaned by crews of (often “illegal”) aliens?

  • Eric Maher April 12, 2006, 11:39 AM

    “Ah the rule of law!”

    You have a better idea?

    “Anyone who would violate them is a criminal!”

    No, anybody who DOES violate them is a criminal.

    “But of course, if it’s a white collar crime, well a slap-on-the-wrist is fine!”

    Who’s defending that?

    “If it’s warrants and wiretaps, well the laws out of date and we have terrorist to stop!”

    Gee, is that why nobody’s criticizing Bush? LOL

    “And as far as amnesty – the number that has occured over time is ridiculous.”

    Um, do you think the number is too high, or too low? Vagueness alert!

    “The majority of Italian Americans are decendants of what would now be called ‘Illegal Aliens.’”

    Why?

    “I personally think all the talk about ‘illegals’ is a smokescreen.”

    In the southwest, it’s a serious problem. Not to mention the very theory of America’s national sovereignty. I strongly object to the vast extent to which our sovereignty is violated (by MILLIONS of illegal aliens) and disrespected (by the illegal aliens and by people who don’t care when people break the law).

    “fear of immigrants”

    Don’t change the subject. The subject is illegal immigration. That’s different from immigration. Like it or not, it’s a different subject.

    “What would REALLY happen if those 12 million “Illegals” left the country?”

    I’m willing to risk it. That’s how much I object to the large number, and their anti-American act of violating our border, violating our law, violating our sovereignty.

    “We hear the arguements against minimum wage increases”

    I’m against minimum wage laws entirely. If someone is willing to work for a lower wage, why should the government stop them? I prefer the employer having the choice, the freedom. The employer should be the one who determines how much a job is worth, not the government. If an employer sets wages too low, then the employer will have trouble getting help, and will have to raise the wage. The employer controls the company, not the government. If I want to run a company and hire 10 people at $7 per hour, meaning a total of $70, but the government says I can only pay $8 per hour, then I’ll probably hire 8 or 9 people (and require them to work harder), meaning a total of $64 or $72, and that means 1 or 2 people are out of work. Thanks to the government.

    “argue that illegals ‘bid down wages’”

    Of course they do! (and you forgot to put “illegals” in quotes LOL) If an illegal is willing to do a job for $5 per hour, and no legal workers are willing to do it for less than $8 per hour, then too many employers will go with the illegal-worker’s wage. It couldn’t be plainer!

    “If minimum wage was de-facto raised (by those same market forces the right reveres)”

    Well, minimum wage is never “de facto” raised, it is only de jure raised. And market forces are a core definition of capitalism. You have a better system in mind?

    In capitalistic theory, there is no “minimum wage,” except the minimum each worker is willing to take.

    Minimum wage laws LOOK good, and make their advocates FEEL good, but they’re not good. They’re based on emotion, not logic.

    When it comes to mimimum wage laws, my favorite question is, “Why doesn’t the government raise the minimum wage to $50.00 per hour? Wouldn’t that be great, if all the “poor people” now made $50.00 per hour?!?

    “What would happen to the housing market (probably the number on thing driving our economy right now) if the cost of construction rises because of the labor cost?”

    The market would handle it. Perhaps housing prices would rise. Perhaps the number of houses sold would fall. Or perhaps lots of legally-hired construction workers would make more money and buy more houses. Perhaps housing developers would take less profit. Capitalism is like that. But if you’re asking, “Is it worth it to have lower prices by having our sovereignty violated and have millions of illegal aliens – under-represented in congress, verily susceptible to exploitation, scared of the police, not ‘protected’ by minimum wage laws, etc.?” then the answer is no.

    “What about the cost of food? Of dining? The prices of the giant ‘Big Box’ stores like Target and Wallmart that are being cleaned by crews of (often ‘illegal’) aliens?”

    The sovereignty of America is not for sale. Or at least it SHOULDN’T be.

    Perhaps the prices of food, of dining, of big box stores, are “too low.” You never know. Wasn’t it pro basketball player Moses Malone, when asked how he justifies his zillion-dollar salary, said, “If the team-owner says it’s cool, then it’s cool.”

    Do you object to market forces being in control?

  • Richard Silverstein April 12, 2006, 1:37 PM

    Pretty obvious that you CAN’T defend your position.

    My position is unassailable esp. fr. the intellectual likes of you.

    I admire Dan for taking you on, but I’m afraid it’s a lost cause as you are far beyond listening to the opinions of anyone other than yourself & those who already agree with you. You are dense & obtuse, both politically, morally & intellectually. I make it a point to avoid arguments with your kind.

    Your participation in this thread is over as you haven’t had a single thing to say that is new since yr first comment. If you return to comment here (at this thread) your comment will prob. be deleted. You may comment at other threads in this blog but I will also reserve the right to end yr participation in those threads after yr first comment. Hearing a single comment per thread fr. you is more than enough Maher for my taste.

  • spacemonkey April 13, 2006, 10:54 AM

    “…you are far beyond listening to the opinions of anyone other than yourself & those who already agree with you. You are dense & obtuse, both politically, morally & intellectually.”

    Richard,

    HAH! And you are different from your description of him, how exactly?

    Again, HAH!

    Smug. Smug, Smug.

  • Richard Silverstein April 13, 2006, 1:55 PM

    I can see Spacemonkey is competing w. his compadre Maher to see who is the biggest asshold around.

    I’ve got 1,000 comments on this blog & at least 25% are from people like you & him. I’ve responded to almost all. And when people who disagree w. me want to engage in a conversation with me I always oblige. There are ways of having discourse w. those you disagree w. w/o showering the opponent w. invective, insult & abuse AND w/o insulting his intelligence. There are ways to acknowledge there is a pt. to the opposite persepctive on an issue w/o giving up yr. own view.

    Tell me honestly, was Eric Maher one of those people??

    I also maintain an I-P discussion forum with several hundred posts many of them far to the left of my own perspective on the conflict. I’ve written thousands of words there attempting to engage with my opponents. So if you don’t believe I’m open to other pts. of view it’s only because you’re totally ignorant of me and my beliefs and practices. But why would you let such ignorance stop you?

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