What is the Jewish biblical view on immigration and citizenship?

A JEWISH VIEWPOINT: The Biblical Green Card?

By Rabbi Aryeh Spero, HUMAN EVENTS ONLINE, 05/30/2007

The American people are a compassionate people. They have demonstrated so countless times and thus do not need to be lectured to by the left about “compassion” every time a new social issue, such as immigration, arises. All too often members of the “religious left” and even politicians demand that compassion be the singular and overriding factor in deciding our nation’s policies, casting aside our imperatives for justice, rule of law, and the requirement for language, secure borders and culture in the preservation of the nation-state.

As has been demonstrated, the survival of America as a nation-state holds little value for those liberals who have placed multi-culturalism above everything else. The idea of justice for all has been subordinated, by liberals, in favor of special privileges for minorities often at the expense of justice and fairness for the mainstream citizenry.

But even in the understanding of the concept of compassion itself, the left has adopted a simplistic and unbalanced view more reminiscent of the children’s TV character Barney than the mature and scholarly approach found in the Bible. The compassionate Bible has explicit views on many issues that would be characterized by those on the “religious left” as hard-hearted since they have reduced tomes and tomes of biblical scripture to simply “Thou shalt disregard every practical and necessary consideration and do whatever you decide at that moment is ‘compassionate.'”

Though the Bible does not outline a specific immigration plan, it does have a lot to say and thus for us a lot to consider when pondering the nuances of the immigration problem facing us. Those demanding amnesty for the 12 million illegals and possible swelling of that rank to 50 million due to future family reunification, often cite the biblical verse: “Thou shalt not afflict the Stranger, as you were so afflicted while in Egypt”.

To so broaden the phrase “not to afflict” to mean a requirement that society suspend its own laws, open itself to a sudden and perhaps inexorable transformation of its very own culture, be exposed to new strains of disease and crime, and mortgage its financial future for the upkeep of those strangers is not only absurd but a deliberate and obvious miscasting of what the Bible actually means.

This country, unlike Muslim countries, does not afflict its strangers. Our streets and stores are open to them as well as our own and their own houses of worship. And unlike the ancient Israelites held in Egypt, we do not enslave our strangers nor allow them to be beaten and, in fact, would not sit idly by while a stranger of any background was being robbed, or raped, or denied any of the humane amenities, absent citizenship, of civilized life.

Our sense of justice and “man created in the image of God” would be sickened by cruel behavior. Most of the ancients did inflict the stranger and many countries outside of the West still do today. But even with the exhortation not to afflict, the biblical alien was not a citizen but remained, in matters of citizenship, a stranger. There was no magic amnesty and automatic road to citizenship.

How did the ancient Commonwealth of Judea assimilate its strangers?

It was a two step process. The first was to apply the designation “ger-toshav” — a resident-stranger; and, thereafter, the title ‘ezrach” — a full citizen. Both steps had to be earned; they were not simply granted.

A “resident’ had to agree to live by the civic rules of ancient Judea. He did not, however, have to fully adopt its religion, Judaism. But when explaining what those rules were the Talmud makes clear it entailed allegiance to the country’s many civic laws, its safety, the sharing of various tax burdens and fidelity to the country’s main cultural theme of monotheism. To prove that allegiance, a once-a-year pilgrimage to Jerusalem’s Holy Temple was expected. As a resident, the alien was offered dignity but not provided the manifold benefits of citizenship, nor was he an equal in civic matters. [Compare this to Islamic rules of Dhimmitude.]

Much of this would horrify many among today’s multicultural left, which promulgates that residency in America demands little in the way of adoption of American ways, culture or language. Indeed many of us would be less apprehensive if we were certain of a melting-pot desire by this crop of immigrants as was found during previous waves in which ” to become American” was an animating impulse stronger even than finding a land where one could make money.

The “resident” status of ancient times would in our terms be similar to someone entitled to a Green Card, with temporary status. Many of today’s Latino illegals are genial and display a penchant for two classic American virtues, namely, hard work and self-reliance, and their emigration from a Christian country supplies them with a strong basis for internalizing the Judeo-Christian ethic that founded and still suffuses our culture. Our future with them will be made better by not allowing ourselves to be influenced by organizations such as La Raza whose goal appears not for assimilation into our culture but an angry retention of Mexican culture with the hope of co-opting America.

Being a resident-stranger in the Promised Land did not yield full citizen benefits. Full benefits and equality were provided only to the citizen, the “ezrach”, one who totally committed himself to his new land. In those days, that commitment was manifest by conversion to the country’s religion, Judaism. And while religion is no longer the litmus test for citizenship, the act of any form of “conversion” means a coming forward from one’s old society into one’s new one, a public coming out, with a new and proud allegiance to one’s new country.

In those days, this took courage for it made one proclaim to his family back home that he was now identifying with a different land, a different people. And today as well, true and meaningful citizenship requires courage since it must entail a form of renunciation of the old land and the exclusivity of its race.

Many of us are still not sure this is the case with all 12 million being granted amnesty. We cannot grant amnesty and citizenship carte blanche, nor simply on a hope that all will turn out all right. The would-be citizens from the ranks of the illegals must first come forward and prove themselves, one-by one. In the Bible, “conversion” was not simply accepted but first tested — a knowledge test of what it meant to be a part of this people, and a loyalty test to the adopted nation-state.

Many of us want this issue to be resolved, but can not accept any plan until America’s borders first are secured. We cannot take a leap of faith for a plan that defies the historic concept of rule of law, especially when those forcing this law on us have not even shown a willingness to do that which will end the tidal wave and danger of unchecked immigration: plugging the dams at the borders.

The sponsors of this bill feel, it seems, more compassion for those here illegally than law-abiding citizens in border towns whose property, hearth and home, as well as their schools and hospitals, have been brazenly assaulted or exploited. Where is the compassion for them? We seem to pay more respect to political groups manned by illegals than our own people. Those who raise a voice in their own behalf are demonized as racist or bigots. Perhaps that’s why there is no faith, no confidence, in our lawmakers. Is this simply a quick fix?

That borders are an imperative to a nation’s cohesion and survival is amplified in the Bible numerous times: “And if you shall follow My ways, I will protect your borders so that the strangers and enemies will not fill your camp and be a thorn in your side.” As a compassionate but sensible book the Bible understood that any country wishing to preserve its culture and way of life is one that must be able to manage its borders. Those who neither understand that nor give it credence simply no longer value the historic American culture. And they most certainly are not led by a compassion greater than mine or yours. They seem to be guided by an indifference to the citizenry.

October 10, 2007 | 1 Comment »

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1 Comment / 1 Comment

  1. Good afternoon all,

    Speaking of “Jewish” and “immigration” and “citizenship”, I anticipate a US Government elimination of duel citizenship.

    I wasn’t aware of Rabbi Spero’s referenced “immigration problem”. The US has health care funding problems and retirement funding problems but an “immigration problem” ??

    (Various reports place the number closer to 20 million when adding the Asians.)

    Not sure what Rabbi Spero’s “amnesty and citizenship” refers to. These matters are surely governed by the secret annexes to NAFTA.

    NAFTA has a development bank at San Antonio, Texas and a labor adjustment office at Los Angeles (Labeled “CAIP”).

    All these 12 or 20 million folks are as legitimate – and citizens -, pending formalities, as was Emma Goldman.

    Rabbi Spero writes “until America’s borders are first secured”. Border security is meeting the requirements. Ever process inbound at a US airport? America’s territorial integrity meets requirements based on trade-offs. So far, the borders are secure.

    Kol tuv,

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