Who is not an ‘alien’?


When we think about immigration and aliens we tend to narrow our focus to the here and now of our time and this country. Do newcomers threaten me and mine? Are they different, forcing me into strangeness, otherness, discomfort?
How much new traffic of people can we take before something essential to our life breaks? Don’t we need some kind of traffic control?
It isn’t necessarily wicked to worry about what a river of immigration might do to our way of life in the United States. A sense of confidence about our place is necessary for peace. Call it a sense of security. Whatever we call it, newcomers always break open that settled, secure feeling.
Anyone watching a 3-year-old cope with the arrival of a new baby competitor for space and attention in the family has seen this dynamic played out openly. We adults sometimes do no better than a resentful child, although for most of us the challenge is met in a way much as it is among small children in a healthy household. We do feel a sense of challenge; we’re wary, watching for signs of safe connection, and slowly our world grows larger, more varied, more interesting, more loving.
This kind of growth requires that essential virtue of faith, as all growth in spirit requires faith. Apparently, the ancient Hebrew people went through experiences with immigrants and resident aliens very much like ours. And one participant in their debates about immigration policy was the voice of faith.
Here is how it sounded:
“When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you. You shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” That is from the Book of Leviticus, chapter 19, verses 33 and 34.
Here’s more:
“You shall not exploit a poor and needy hired servant, whether one of your own kindred or one of the resident aliens who live in your land, within your gates. On each day you shall pay the servant’s wages before the sun goes down, since the servant is poor and is counting on them. Otherwise the servant will cry to the Lord against you, and you will be held guilty.
“You shall not deprive the resident alien or the orphan of justice, nor take the clothing of a widow as pledge. For, remember, you were slaves in Egypt, and the Lord, your God, redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.” That is Deuteronomy 24:14-15,17-18.
These words don’t answer all questions or show us precise direction in policy. That isn’t our first need. The detail questions will be worked out as our faith allows a healthy vision to emerge:
“The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you. You shall love the alien as yourself….”
Who among us in the United States is not an alien or descended from aliens?
Frank Wessling

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