(This is part 2 of a previous blog)
Leviticus: 19:33 "When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God." (NIV)
As I sat in my office with two men who had illegally crossed the Rio Grande in search of medical care for an elderly grandmother, and work for the two of them, my heart sank. I knew they'd sold some of their property back home to pay the people smugglers.
It turned out that it was one of the people who worked for the smugglers who told them that cancer therapy in the United States was free, and that if they just got their Grandmother across the river she be treated and healed.
The young niece who had also come was to be united with her mother and father who had come several years earlier when both lost their jobs when a factory closed.
After a few phone calls, we discovered that both the Grandmother and niece had already been sent back to Mexico and were in the care of the DIF, the Mexican Social Services agency. The men were relieved. \
After a few agonized minutes they decided they could not leave the young lady and their grandmother, They asked how to get back to Mexico and how to find the DIF. After getting them directions, I drove them downtown, gave them enough money for the pedestrian bridge toll and bus fare in Nuevo Laredo. And I gave them my card, and told them to call me if they needed anything else.
I parked near the bridge, They hugged me, thanked me and set off back to Mexico.
Simple work visas would allow people to come, work, earn, pay taxes, visa fees, and go home when there was no work. Instead we spend billions of tax dollars on immigration agents, when we could be collecting billions of visa dollars, letting people work and pay tax dollars. Spend tax dollars - Collect Tax dollars?
At the level of politics, economics, national security, and more, immigration is not really quite that simple. But much of what drives our current policy is driven by fear and racism.
The irony of all the anger and hostility toward foreigners in the United States is a sign that most Americans no longer know their own story. My ancestors came to the English colony of Massachusetts to escape religious intolerance. Others came from Ireland to escape English economic oppression. Some came seeking a better life in the new world.
Here on the border, in the late 1930's and 1940's a steady stream of illegal Jewish refugees came into the United States via Mexico. Today we'd call them OTMs (other than Mexican). Mexico was willing all through the 1930's and 1940's to accept Jewish refugees when we were not.
Our State Department was full of people who were anti-Semitic, and we had official policies to keep Jewish people from coming to the US. Many people died in concentration camps because we refused them refuge. How short sighted those seem now!!
God help us to reach back into our ancestral memories and realize that all of us came from somewhere else.
And as Christians, we should look back even further, to a much older ancestral memory: Exodus 23:9 “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt."