“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.”
As you may recall from Sunday school (if that was part of your childhood experience), Jacob’s family migrated to Egypt as environmental refugees due to a famine. There was food in Egypt (thanks to Joseph’s visionary leadership of the newly formed Department of Agriculture–it’s a long story). Though initially welcomed (Genesis 45:16-19), their experience quickly turned following a change in political leadership, and Jacob’s descendants were marginalized and oppressed. (See Exodus 1) After God delivered them from their oppression, God commanded them to use their marginalized experience as a guide in their treatment of immigrants and environmental refugees in their community.
The United States is often referred to as the “Nation of Immigrants”. Unless you are a member of an indigenous tribe or were a slave brought to this country against your will, your ancestors were immigrants or environmental refugees. However, many people have forgotten or diminished their immigrant history and experience, leading them to use phrases like “my country” and advocate for stricter laws that marginalize and oppress new arrivals to the U.S.
Questions for Reflection
Were your ancestors immigrants? If so, why did they come to the U.S.? What stories did you hear about their experience? Were they accepted upon their arrival? What challenges did they face? What feelings might they have had?
When have you felt like a “foreigner”? Describe those feelings. What, if anything, helped to relieve those feelings?
How can you use your (or your family’s) migration experience to act more justly toward immigrants today?
For the Record
HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s statement that slaves were immigrants is totally inaccurate–yet another ‘alternative fact’. Immigrants and environmental refugees move by choice or necessity. African slaves were moved as human cargo without choice.