My late father-in-law was a 13-year-old orphaned Holocaust survivor from Holland when he immigrated to America in 1947. He barely knew English and hadn’t a penny in his pocket. There were no social services ready to greet him and help him acclimate. No child welfare services advocated on his behalf to assure that medical, mental-health, nutritional and educational benefits were provided for him.
He was sponsored to come by relatives who barely had enough to support their own children. There were no safety nets. He went to school, worked hard to make money to put himself through university to learn a profession, and was grateful for the opportunities he largely made for himself. All this was done legally.
My mother shared a similar story. After World War II, she too traveled to America legally, but she was destitute. She came from Transylvania via Israel, was sponsored by relatives, learned the language, and worked to put herself through school. She succeeded, despite no outside help. I remember my mother saying that she would not have had what to eat without a job.
In today’s world of immigration, such stories are tales of a bygone era. Talk of America’s “broken immigration system” is split, albeit unevenly, between the challenges of legal immigration and the utter disaster at our southern border.
No wonder. For the first time ever, the number of U.S. arrests along the Mexico border topped 2 million a year. Only to be released, since the name of the game is to get arrested by a border patrol agent to start the process of seeking asylum.
Chaotic scenes of migrants climbing walls and slipping through holes at the southern border coincide with overwhelmed border patrol agents and border towns. Tragic scenes of human smuggling, dead migrants, and drug trafficking cartels unfold, with fentanyl overdose deaths in America jumping 44% in just the last two years.
According to a recent Federation for American Immigration Reform study, the number of illegal aliens who entered since President Biden took office will cost the U.S. taxpayer over $20 billion each year, in addition to the $140 billion that existing illegals already cost. Social services are overrun, local hospitals and clinics must provide aliens healthcare, and schools must accept the children.
The surge, which came after the Biden administration lifted Trump-era immigration programs, like Remain in Mexico and Title 42, has left the majority of Americans crying foul. According to the left-leaning NPR, a poll conducted in August reveals that more than half of Americans say there’s an “invasion” at the southern border. Almost half of all Americans and 70% of Republicans agree that “Democrats are working to open our borders to more immigrants,” recognizing Democrats’ intentional disregard for the crisis in hopes of shoring up the ranks of Democratic voters.
Yet, the do-gooders continue to chant “Abolish ICE” and insist, as Vice President Harris did, that “the border is secure.” Revelations of their own hypocrisy — recoiling when illegal migrants were transported to their own sanctuary cities — have not deterred them.
As with most leftist campaigns, Jews are marching in the front. They champion open borders in the name of the Biblical injunction, “Love the stranger.” Take a look at the mission statements of non-Orthodox establishments, like Reform, Conservative, and most notably HIAS (who prefer that acronym to the obviously Jewish-sounding Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) and you will find “Welcome the stranger” among their top goals.
The HIAS website quotes the passuk in Devarim (10:19), “‘You shall love the stranger for you were strangers.’ We are told 36 times in the Torah to love those who are strangers.” And the Union for Reform Judaism website reads, “Welcoming the stranger, or immigrant, is a core part of Jewish tradition, mentioned at least 36 times in the Hebrew Bible.” And by this they clearly mean welcoming non-Jews.
Notwithstanding a general injunction to show compassion in all appropriate settings, this interpretation is not the Torah’s intent. And it is clearly a strange rendering of the Biblical “stranger.” An illegal immigrant crossing the southern border for economic benefit is not a “ger.” He is neither a ger tzedek, a convert, about whom the Torah instructs us to show extreme sensitivity, nor is he a ger toshav* in the Land of Israel, against whom we cannot discriminate.
There is no obligation or any basis in the Torah for Jews to embrace an illegal immigrant. Furthermore, it would be a counterproductive argument to claim that Jews should welcome illegal immigrants mipnei darchei shalom, in order to promote ways of peace for Jewish interests in our host country, when a majority of that country opposes illegal immigration. Why risk further igniting an explosive and divisive situation?
Migrants seeking a better life are not analogous to Jewish refugees who fled countries to protect their lives, during the Holocaust or at any other point in history. And should South Americans be more deserving of economic improvement than Indians, Romanians or Bangladeshis?
This warped view of the mitzvah of loving the ger should not be surprising. The same Jews who corrupt Jewish dictums to promote this particular agenda are the ones who promote all manners of toeivah and immorality in the name of tikkun olam. Moral posturing cloaked in misinterpreted Biblical quotes and Jewish traditions is a dangerous proposition, in addition to being against halakhah. Corrupting Jewish values to fit an ideology has no boundaries.
In a classic example of misplaced compassion, rachamim, leading to moral perversion, HIAS lobbies against successful programs like Title 42 and Remain in Mexico, but opposed President Trump’s cutting off aid to UNWRA, declaring that “the humanitarian consequences of such cuts will likely be dire.” And when Israel blocked Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting Israel and the 'West Bank' because of their extreme anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric, HIAS stated that they are “saddened, and even alarmed…by a decision which violates all of these principles for which HIAS stands.”
We just celebrated the holiday of Sukkot, commemorating the miraculous protection Hashem provided the Jewish people when they left Egypt. Providing protection to others may stem from the Jewish characteristic of being merciful, but true Jewish conduct must follow a divine directive.
Sara Lehmannis an award-winning New York based columnist and interviewer. For more of her writings please visit saralehmann.com.
A version of this article first appeared in Hamodia.
*Ger toshav - a non-Jew who dwelt among the Jewish people and followed some Jewish practice, such as the Noahide Laws, without actually converting.