“You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
In our weekly Torah reading, we are in the midst of one of the most important stories of the Jewish people, the exodus from Egypt. There are many lessons we take from the tales of bondage, suffering and freedom of the Israelites. The command to treat strangers with kindness is at the forefront.
We read the verse above numerous times throughout the Torah. We are told that since we know what it is like to be treated badly as strangers in a strange land, we have an even greater obligation to treat foreigners with great care and compassion. We who sit here today, immigrants, children of immigrants, grandchildren of immigrants know what it is like to be a stranger in a foreign land. Are we willing to turn to the tactics and actions of those that oppressed us, our parents and our grandparents in order to oppress the immigrants that now live among us?
What I read these days about how congress and our executive branch are handling DACA gives me great pain. I understand the desire to maintain secure borders and vet those coming into our country. I am not so naïve as to think there are not bad actors trying to game the system to enter our country to cause harm to Americans. But, the dreamers are not those people. These are the people that have grown up here, gone to our elementary and high schools, attended college, work and pay taxes. Though they may have been brought as minors to this country illegally, they have proven that they can be a positive force in our society. To now make DACA a political pawn in an ongoing dispute about a border wall with Mexico flies in the face of the Biblical injunction to treat strangers with care and compassion.
There are many complicated issues related to immigration and border security that we can argue about with great passion, DACA does not seem to be one of those. What do we gain by taking this group of over 800,000 individuals who are currently contributing to making our country great and suddenly denying them the rights they deserve?
I was proud to see several of my colleagues and friends participate in an act of civil disobedience at the Senate building. Over a hundred rabbis, laypeople and dreamers protested the direction the government is taking in regard to DACA. Many were arrested and peacefully removed.
While we are far removed from the nation’s capital, there are still things we can do.
The organization Bend the Arc is currently running a campaign to have our voices heard regarding DACA.
You can go to their website to read more information and to sign a petition to get the Dreamers’ Act Bill signed on its own merits.
It is time to take a stand and fulfill the mitzvah of not oppressing the foreigners among us.