2 Chronicles 2:1-2
Solomon decided to build a temple for the name of the Lord, and a royal palace for himself. Solomon conscripted seventy thousand laborers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hill country, with three thousand six hundred to oversee them.
Solomon embarks on an ambitious building project that included thousands of workers. However, it is clear that the workers did not voluntarily enlist for the project–they were very likely slave labor (or close to it). Where did Solomon get all the workers? According to 2 Chronicles 2:17-18, all 153,600 workers were “aliens” residing in his kingdom. The temple and the palace were built by immigrants.
Throughout U.S. history, labor intensive construction jobs have often been given to slaves (the White House) or immigrants. In New Orleans, work on the 60′ by 3.17 mile New Basin Canal began in 1832 using the labor of newly arriving Irish immigrants. The construction was back-braking, dangerous work–often in waist-deep water. Over the course of the 6-year project, it has been estimated that 8,000 – 20,000 Irish laborers died–many of them succumbing to mosquito-borne Yellow Fever. The true number will never be known as most of the men were simply buried in the levees that lined the canal.
Our current immigration policies give highly skilled immigrants preferential treatment. However, most of our fruits and vegetables are harvested by low-paid migrant workers with little protection.
Questions for Reflection
“Immigrants are taking our jobs!” We often hear that statement in the immigration debate. How do you respond when you hear it?
What jobs are most likely to be filled by immigrants today? What do you think would happen if immigrants just stopped working?