[T]he whole immigration saga gets heated up when it becomes a family affair: More often than not, illegal immigrants come and find a measure of success that allows them to marry (with citizens or other illegals), and the children born are granted automatic U.S. citizenship. If and when these illegals are caught and face deportation, we are again faced with a tough dilemma. We cannot separate families, but we cannot deport legal American citizens who haven’t broken any law: “Sons shall not be penalized for their father’s sins.”
This dilemma that faces the U.S. legislation and law enforcement bodies is actually an incentive for millions of illegals to marry and have “anchor babies” that tie them to the soil of this country. To date, there are a reported over 400k of such babies! The initiative spins out of control when these parents with this undefined status begin to demand working rights and benefits which belong to citizens or legal immigrants on the ground that “If we don’t qualify for deportation, then we cannot be denied these benefits and the right to work”. One side of the debate turned into executive policies adopted by President Obama in 2014 included mass deportation deferrals and an expansion of the DACA program for children brought in illegally. The other side of the debate, twenty six states who suffer from illegal immigration, a phenomenon some will call an “epidemic,” challenged these policies and won a temporary injunction from a federal judge early on in 2015, and the crisis seems far from being resolved.
It becomes heartbreaking when these “anchor babies” themselves plead on behalf of their parents at demonstrations and on the media. How can you explain to an American citizen that American law mandates his parents’ deportation?!
What do you say to a child who since he or she was three months old grew up in the U.S., English is his or her first language, he or she went to American schools, eats American food, and lives by American values, that he must go to a country he or she never was in, doesn’t know its language and culture, just because his or her parents crossed the border illegally?!
In Jewish terms this is a very challenging matter, both personally and even more devastating communally:
A famous adage goes that, “It is easier to learn the entire Talmud by heart than to change one bad habit.” We are born with some character defects and some we adopt over time. While the ones we were born with are hard enough to deal with, we have the option of not taking on more, but more often than not, we make that mistake. It’s important to know how it happens; “Habits become second nature” is how.
Even if you fail to properly screen something “not good” entering your life, if we are alert enough to determine when in becomes a habit that will soon become second nature, we can “deport” it before it becomes deeply rooted within us and starts a second generation. This is much harder to deal with and get rid of. Deporting someone, especially if he doesn’t present himself as a terrorist with a Kalashnikov and grenade in hand is hard. The tears on the deportees’ faces make you think that you are being cruel. But it is inevitable, and the earlier you uproot a bad middah, the easier it is. At some point, you will have to take action – it may be your spouse that will push you to it or your children. So why wait until you hit rock bottom?
Communally speaking we face a similar issue:
As a nation we faced and will continue to face challenges from the world around us all the time. Some of them force us to rethink the methods with which we ensure the continuity of our traditions and our people, at times we even made so-called ‘concessions’ and gave up great values in order to ensure the survival of values of even greater importance. When the challenge passes and the storm is gone, do we go back to the old way, or do we not? Even if we wish to do so, is it even possible? How do we restore to the “factory settings?” Do such settings even exist? Maybe Judaism is an adaptive religion?
Perhaps this was the argument between traditional Orthodox Judaism and other breakaway movements. In a more subtle manner, this remains to be the hidden argument between Modern-Orthodoxy and Ultra-Orthodoxy.
In the following post we will explore two major such examples: the rise and decline of the study of Jewish philosophy and the efforts to “modernize” orthodoxy and Halacha.