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  • John E. Crean, Jr., Obl.S.B., Ph.D.

Immigrant or Alien? Native-born or Neighbor?

“Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land.   Treat them

like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you

were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus

19:33-34 NLT)

The daily office scriptures during the fourth week of Lent are from Leviticus.

Amidst the many do’s and don’ts cataloged there, I ran across a gem for our time.

Recently, the United States of America appears besieged by people who want in,

both from the south as well as from the north. And it doesn’t take a degree in

rocket science to figure out why. For many decades, people have desired to

resettle in the US. But why is there such a flurry of asylum seekers these days?

What’s driving the drastic increase of people wanting to immigrate?

Rampant injustice, burgeoning autocracy, random crime, and worldwide

human rights violations would top the list. But behind all that lies the capital sin of

greed. For some world leaders, enough never seems to be enough. “I want more,

I deserve more, and you deserve less, much less” is their tune.

But what did the Lord’s tell his so-called chosen people? He was reminding

them to treat foreigners decently. People whom some call the “other” are our

neighbors, too, regardless where they were born, how they look, talk, or dress.

God’s telling us, “don’t take advantage of them, neither look down on nor look

away from them when they show up in your own backyard. Don’t say NIMBY to

people who are fleeing for their life.”

Quoting another biblical text, the writer of Leviticus restates the second

great commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. In case they might be

suffering from short-term of amnesia, he reminds the Israelites that only recently

they too were strangers in a strange land, enslaved, disrespected, and thoroughly

distained by the Egyptians. In other words, don’t forget where you came from,

turn around, and proceed to inflict that very same bad behavior on others.

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