“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.” Book of Exodus. 23:9.
That is the Old Testament passage President Barack Obama cited during his speech on immigration policy.
I am following with chagrin the intense attacks – dressed in the rhetorical clothes of morality and righteous indignation – of a large proportion of society on President Obama’s decision to free millions of illegals from the fear of deportation.
Critics say the President is rewarding those who broke the law and that it will encourage millions of new illegal immigrants. They also fear the amnesty will lead to wage increases, and that will result in higher prices for goods and services. Obama is behaving like an Emperor, suggests the headline of the Wall Street Journal editorial: “I Barack.”
But I am especially sad at members of our own community, Greek-Americans of whatever generation, who are opposed to it.
Similar arguments, dear Greek-Americans and Hellenes from every part of the world who are reading this, have been used by many generations of Americans to prevent new immigrants from entering and living in this country.
Yet, instead of being destroyed, the country flourished, became a mosaic of harmonious living, an economic miracle, a bright star that leads humanity along the long but steady road to full realization of the human potential.
For me – and I hope it is the case for every member of the community – the only principle according to which we should treat new illegal immigrants is that of humanitarianism, guided by God’s directive: “… you were foreigners in Egypt, too.”
Let me ask you: what should our country do with the children who came here young, who are Americans by any criterion of judgment, who do not know any other country other than the United States?
Should they be deported?
And what should be done with those children who are born here but with illegal parents? Do we expel the parents but keep the children, who are American citizens by law?
Is it right and just to let millions of people live in fear of deportation, to be exploited, without the possibility of becoming integrated into society and developing as individuals? Or should we give them the opportunity to live humanely and with dignity and pay their taxes, too?
We forget too easily that we, too, “were foreigners in Egypt.” We forget what our protoporoi – the first ones – endured when they arrive here, harsh living conditions, insults, persecutions, their homes being burned.
In restaurants down South there were signs which read “No dogs and Greeks allowed.”
And still, we are not interested in knowing what thousands of Greeks are currently enduring, forced by the economic crisis to leave Greece in search of a better life.
That is why I oppose the pseudo-morality of those people who are opposed to President Obama’s measures.
There should be humane and dignified treatment for all. That is what is required by conscience.
That is what made America, America.