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?
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.