“Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” (from the Great Colossus inscribed on the Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor)
We are fast becoming a nation I don’t recognize. President Trump’s Friday Executive Order on immigration is an attack on the founding principles of our country while not doing what Trump says it is meant to do – keep us safer.
Since 9/11, no refugees from the targeted countries in this order have been involved in fatal terrorist attacks in the United States.
Trump’s Order bars entry into the United States of all Syrian refugees, targets Muslim-majority countries (except those countries where it seems that Trump has business interests – e.g. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and The United Arab Emirates) and threatens the integrity of families who want nothing more than to be together in America, work, pay taxes, and become citizens.
Thankfully, US District Judge Ann Donnelly yesterday blocked a part of Trump’s executive order brought by the ACLU on behalf of two detained Iraqi immigrants at New York’s JFK airport as unconstitutional saying: “The petitioners have a strong likelihood of success in establishing that the removal of the petitioner and other similarly situated violates their due process and equal protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”
I want to know this – Where is the Republican party leadership in Congress on this issue? Why have they overwhelmingly lined up behind Trump — or a stayed quiet?
Other than (to date) Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA), Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), Representative Justin Amash (R-MI), and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), no Republican has broken ranks and called Trump out to condemn this executive order. The five Republicans above will go down in history as having done the right thing – and I commend them all!
I am also waiting for Democrats in the House and Senate to speak out.
Attacking foreigners is easy. Bullies do it because foreigners are weak and vulnerable. They have no one representing their interests. They are alone and often traumatized. The may not speak the language or understand the laws and culture of the country in which they find themselves.
Of all the commandments in the Hebrew Bible, the mitzvah of welcoming the stranger is among the most important. The word ger (stranger or alien) appears 92 times in the Tanakh.
Why? Because we Jews understand what it means to be strangers from Egypt to Spain to medieval Europe to Germany to the USSR and to many Middle Eastern countries.
We Jews know the heart of the stranger.
We Jews know what it’s like to be hunted and persecuted.
We Jews know what it’s like to be targeted because of our religion and background.
We Jews know what fear means and what it feels like to be hated.
Jewish tradition is as clear about our obligations to strangers as it is about any other ethical demand:
“You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt…” (Exodus 22:21-22)
“You shall love the stranger, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10: 19)
“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him/her as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am Adonai your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
“Thus says God: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the stranger, …” (Jeremiah 22:3)
“Adonai enacts justice for the orphan and widow, and loves the stranger, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love the stranger because you were a stranger in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)
“Don’t oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; don’t plan evil against each other!” (Zechariah 7:10)
“God watches over strangers…” (Psalm 146:9)
“You have brought your judgment days near and have come to your years of punishment [because] father and mother are treated with contempt, and the stranger is exploited within you.” (Ezekiel 22:4, 7)
“’I will come to you in judgment, and I will be ready to witness against … those who oppress the widow and the fatherless, and cheat the wage earner; and against those who deny justice to the stranger. They do not fear Me,’ says Adonai.” (Malachi 3:5)
The American Reform movement is now organizing on the local, state and national level in support of vulnerable communities targeted by the Trump Administration and the Republican majority Congress.
Below is a letter sent this past week explaining what we as individuals and as members of synagogues can do to get engaged and become activists :
“The Reform Jewish movement of America is organizing to fight the mistreatment of vulnerable parts of the population. Reform congregations and communities across California are coming together as part of Reform CA, a project of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, to mobilize vocal support for positive state and local policies that advance our Jewish values—and vocal opposition to policies that target the vulnerable populations in our communities.
This rapid response system begins today.
We are asking you to get your Reform congregation or community to contact your U.S. Representatives, urging them to publicly oppose any executive order that threatens the rights of refugees and immigrants, including cutting off federal funding from sanctuary cities.
If you have not already done so, we urge your congregation or community to sign a Brit Olam (google “Brit Olam”), a covenant to act together to defend vulnerable communities against attack: people of color, the LGBTQ community, those with tenuous access to healthcare and reproductive choice, immigrants and refugees, Muslims and other religious minorities, and other victims of bigotry.”
See “Reform Movement Denounces President Trump’s Executive Order Barring Entry from Several Muslim-Majority Countries” http://www.rac.org/reform-movement-denounces-president-trumps-executive-order-barring-entry-several-muslim-majority