There has been a very long and in-depth conversation going on at Locusts & Honey about immigration policy. Click here to read through the comments.
John prompted the conversation by asking "to whom the OT refers to as 'foreigners'" in the several passages that instruct God's people in how to treat them. John wonders, are the foreigners/aliens people in Israel "legally" or are they "undocumented" or perhaps the Bible is referring to all foreigners, regardless of legal status.
Good question, and obviously (judging from the comment thread) an evocative one.
What if, though, the reference to "foreigners" is not so nuanced as we might try to make it? What if the Bible is just talking about non-Jews in general? The Jewish people were chosen by God to be a nation or a people. That "chosen people" status permeates the entire Hebrew Bible. To try to make the term refer to our contemporary idea of immigrants may be a stretch, historically speaking. The national identity of the Jews is tied to the land, to be sure, but physical national boundaries were shifty things back then, and even more so the Jewish national identity is about their relationship with God.
So what if those Hebrew Bible references to the foreigner or the alien are describing how people who have a relationship with God should treat people who do not have a relationship with God? Or perhaps how people of one particular religious tradition treat those of another, especially how those of the predominant tradition treat those in the minority?
Or what if it is all of the above? What if it is a broader, more sweeping instruction than we can imagine? What if a Scriptural listing of alien, foreigner, widow, and orphan calls us to notice any and all who are marginalized by the predominant system, whatever it may be, and then to act justly on their behalf? Then the question becomes not "What country are you from?" but rather "How are you being hurt by the predominant system?"
And then, applying that to the contemporary discussion of immigration reform, it calls people to notice how others are being hurt by the U.S. system of immigration. How families may be separated. How bureaucracy drags the process into inordinantly long times. How unbelievably expensive it is. How predators abuse people by inflating the cost of their services which promise help navigating the unwieldy system. How depending upon which official is considering your case on any given day, you might be approved or denied, seemingly at random. How following one office's instructions to the letter doesn't necessarily meet another office's expectations, which can mean either flat-out denial of your request or shuffling it into someone's inbox somewhere until they are able to dig it out and consider it, at which point they may just refer you to another office somewhere to start over again. And so forth.
For me, the immigration issue is not about language or culture or national laws being broken. For me, immigration reform is all about changing the way a predominant system oppresses, marginalizes, and dehumanizes people.
I am hopeful to hear your thoughts, as we continue an important conversation.
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