On Border Control and Immigration Policy (1)

The public debate about U.S. border control and immigration reform is a topic that has returned to the headlines lately. Most of its basic concepts enjoy a wide Republican-Democratic consensus, but still manages to stir up great tensions. What can we as Jews learn from this debate?

A topic that is gaining much heat lately is the proper manner of U.S. border control. Interestingly enough, on the most part, it is a topic that enjoys a wide Republican-Democratic consensus, , but still manages to stir up lot’s of tension.

Border control and immigration reform are topics that we will always have to deal with regardless of who will become the next U.S. policy-maker in the White House.

As Jews who believe that everything that happens in this world are acts of G-d, this two-decade old crisis and the debate over it, I find, contain very important lessons for how to handle the microcosm of this great country: what we let in and out of our own borders.

An old-time favorite Chasidic tale is told about a disciple of the great maggid of Mezerich who had a hard time controlling the thoughts that went through his mind. Some just weren’t so pretty and proper. His master didn’t give him any strategy on how to deal with them, but instead sent him to one of his great disciples to discuss the matter with him.

So, late one night, our friend found himself arriving at the home of the great R’ Aharon of Karlin, a giant of mind and soul. He peered through the front door and observed R’ Aharon poring over his holy books immersed in deep thought. The Maggid’s disciple knocked on the door hoping to enter and warm his frozen bones. Upon hearing the knocks, R’ Aharon called out “Who’s there?” to which the guest responded with his name. R’ Aharon heard him, but instead of opening the door he retracted back to his books and deep thoughts. The poor freezing man tried again a few moments later, but to no avail, he wasn’t let in. He begged and pleaded but R’ Aharon, who was known as a kind-hearted individual, just ignored him the whole night through.

After many hours, the sun finally smiled its first rays upon the town and R’ Aharon turned to the door with a wide smile, welcoming his guest into his home and offering him a glass of tea to warm his frozen bones in front of the blazing fireplace.

The man was totally lost; he didn’t know what to think to himself of this strange experience. “R’ Aharon!” he demanded, “How could you just leave me outside like that in the freezing night?! How can a Jewish heart be so numb to the pain of a suffering brother?!”

R’ Aharon responded to the perplexed man with a wise smile, “I just wanted to show you that I control who enters my home!”

The man left with a lesson for life – thoughts can only enter if you allow them in.

Now more than ever we must challenge our protection system on how we respond to the many intruders that want to enter our borders. Some seem more innocent than others, like the thousands of children who flood the borders each year and challenge the American people, those from an immigrant nation at heart, on how we will live up to the motto inscribed on the Statue of Liberty – “Give me your tired and your weary.”

An ethical and moral heart-twister indeed: Can we send these innocent children back home to struggle from hunger and violence? But can we just let them come here at the expense of our own children? Don’t we have enough of our own starving kids at home who could use the millions of dollars spent on caring for these heart-breaking illegal immigrants?

On a national scale these sorts of dilemmas are really not easy to answer, for they place equally important principles at odds with one another. Yet a side must be taken and whichever one it is, it will leave an unbridged gap with the other. Still to our luck, the very same dilemmas on the personal level do leave us with more clarity on making the right decisions and while we may need to part in the process with ideas and ideals important to us, we still retain the knowledge that making the right choices is good for us in the long run.