If you pay attention to the immigration debate, you have heard many people called many things. We point fingers at the politicians with whom we disagree, and we point fingers at the immigrants who are just seeking their best possible life, as we all are. We call each other names. Undocumented immigrants are called criminals and terrorists. We fling every obscenity known to man at our politicians. But there is one name you’ve probably never heard anyone call our President. Today, we are calling him Moses.
We are calling him Moses because our immigrants are living their own Exodus. They are escaping the chains of poverty, oppression and violence to come to our home, the land of milk and honey, the Promised Land. With his Executive Actions and the hope of further reform, the President is sawing off the chains that have held back undocumented immigrants for so long.
For the immigrants – the Israelites in our metaphor – this is a time of liberation.
But do you remember what happened in the Biblical story when the Israelites were freed from Pharoah? Moses performed a number of miracles to lead them to the Promised Land, even parting the Red Sea to protect them from the pursuing Egyptians. Even so, they refused to listen to Moses, their leader and protector.
Because the Israelites would not accept the path to freedom that had been laid out for them, they had to wander around the desert for forty years before they were allowed to enjoy the Promised Land.
They sabotaged themselves. This problem often haunts those who have been enslaved. Once they are given the opportunity to rise up, they have trouble accepting the change. The path of freedom is strange and unfamiliar, and so it is difficult to navigate.
In immigration law, it is common to see this kind of self-sabotage. Even when clients are on the cusp of being granted legal status, they often don’t want to listen to immigration attorneys’ advice. They argue and rebel and throw away the map, making it difficult for them to receive the help they need to enter the Promised Land. Slavery – hiding in the shadows, staying at the bottom of the ladder, going to jail or being deported – immigrants who stand in their own way are destined to stay in these places.
As we welcome a new year, my hope is that all who need help walking this path will receive it with grace. My hope is that immigrants who have been offered the chance for liberation will understand that they have to rise up to accept that liberation. My hope is that these immigrants will cleanse themselves of the psychological residue often left by the chains of enslavement. May they grant themselves self-liberation, accepting the map they need to navigate the path to the Promised Land so they won’t be stuck in the desert for the next forty years.
Likewise, may the American people, whose families immigrated to this nation, remember the lessons learned by our ancestors. They survived religious persecution, indentured servitude, the Trail of Tears and U.S. slavery. They were foreigners, too, once.
Therefore, as we debate immigration reform, let us remember these words from long ago: 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. -Leviticus 19:34. It is too easy for us to be enslaved by political rhetoric and ideology; may we remember the truth.
If you or someone you know needs the advice of an immigration attorney, please contact us today to schedule a free consultation.