Immigration: to be or not to be

by | February 5, 2019 6:30 pm

Last Updated: February 3, 2019 at 1:25 pm

By Rabbi Josef Germaine

Immigration, as a policy and a subject, has been an ongoing debate for some time. Those who are living here “illegally” have to, from day to day, live under the threat of expulsion. Those who clamor at our gates seeking refuge have to suffer the dismal prospect of being forced to return to a life of utter deprivation where basic sustenance is unavailable as well as exposure to life threatening conditions under an oppressive political system.

Would it surprise you that most of the above, if not all, confronted our founding fathers, seeking new horizons, a new future, far from the oppressive governments of European society? I do not argue against walls as part of the means of border protection, but I do argue against it being used as a political manipulative tool jeopardizing the already existing programs, which in turn do in fact contribute to the safety of American citizens here in this country. There is no way can one be convinced that forcing people to their jobs without pay can assure the same quality of work when psychologically concerned and worried about how to maintain and care for their families, families composed of men, women and children.

We are, by definition, a Judeo-Christian society; our currency reads “In God We Trust,” our official motto. Would it surprise you that immigration is a G-d given declaration, actually, a commandment predating our own history by 5,000 years?

“Now the Lord said unto Abram: get thee out of thy country (Mesopotamia), and from thy kindred and from thy father’s house unto the land that I will show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation and I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and be thou a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse, and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3.

There is something very significant about this Biblical reference to “immigration.” Indeed, it demonstrates that human affairs of yesterday remain unchanged through the centuries. We have enjoyed monumental success because of our adherence to, whether by faith or in principle, a G-d given maxim of spiritual awareness and conformity that has made this country unique. No conference or meeting of various factions can ever achieve any measure of success or progress without a precondition of compromise.

What has beset our government is bipartisan politics, which only contributes to the detriment of the people they, as leaders, have sworn to protect. Again, this is not an argument against border protection, but rather the manner in which issues are resolved. There are, in fact, legitimate refugees seeking refuge. Let us proceed to thresh the grain, separating the chaff from what is healthy and edible. Walls? Perhaps, but not until our politicians can rise above their egos. And let us not forget another dark episode of our history.

In May of 1939, the MS St. Louis, a German ship, sailing from Hamburg, Germany with over 900 Jewish passengers were denied disembarkation in the United States and Canada. As a result, the ship was forced to return to Germany. Captain Schroder, of heavy conscience, sailed to various European countries allowing refuge for the passengers. Eventually, as these countries fell under Nazi Germany, over 600 of these passengers perished in concentration camps.

We are not perfect, but what leads to perfection is a humble awareness of our imperfections and the courage to admit to our failings.

Again, I close with the inscription on the Statue of Liberty:


“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to be free.

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

Send these the homeless, tempest-tost to me.

I lift my lamp beside the Golden door!”

Emma Lazarus

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