One of the most universally revered lines in the Bible, a line which is not only central to the Judeo-Christian tradition, but is part of the world heritage of all humanity regardless of religious affiliation or belief, is the well-known line from Exodus (22:21):

"You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt"

This line, referring to one of the most famous refugee stories in all of human history - the flight of the People of Israel from Egypt to find refuge in the Promised Land of Canaan - is not only part of the world's great heritage of humanity, but it is also embodies the very essence of America, as a refuge for people fleeing tyranny, oppression and persecution in every part of the world.

This great expression of the human spirit is also part of the personal heritage of both Donald Trump, whose German grandfather and poverty-stricken Scottish mother came to America to find a better life; and Stephen Miller, whose Jewish great grandfather fled pogroms and persecution in Czarist Russia to emigrate to America.

But for Trump and Miller, the fundamental human right to leave one's country and seek refuge or asylum elsewhere, a right which is also enshrined in international law and recognized by US asylum and refugee law, evidently does not apply to people who may have the "wrong" skin color.

When refugees,from war, dictatorship or other forms of persecution in Africa, Central America or the Middle East seek refuge in the United States, Trump and Miller now want to shut our gates entirely and admit zero refugees in FY 2020. Yes, zero refugees!

See: Common Dreams, July 18:

'Catastrophic,' 'Beyond Shameful, and 'Xenophobia-Fueled' Trump Admin Panned Over Proposal to Slash Refugee Cap to Zero

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/07/19/catastrophic-beyond-shameful-and-xenophobia-fueled-trump-admin-panned-over-proposal

This appalling example of barbarism and inhumanity not only betrays the ideal which has come down to us in the Bible over many centuries, but it also brings back the spirit of one of the darkest periods in America's entire immigration history, when America closed its borders to all but a small handful of Jewish refugees fleeing Europe in the 1930's and early 1940's. Many of those refugees who were denied admission to the United States later died in the gas chambers and ovens of the holocaust.

Today, what kind of respect is Donald Trump, who enjoys strong support from Evangelical Christians and who claims to be a great friend of the State of Israel, showing for the universal principle of tolerance and humanity expressed in the above Biblical passage?

The Catholic magazine Commonweal describes Trump's contempt for the most basic principles of humanity toward immigrants, as expressed in the above Biblical line, in a July 22 article dealing with the administration's abuse of immigrant and refugee children by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. See:

Progressive Religious Activists Stand up for Migrants

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/you-shall-not-wrong-stranger

Dionne begins:

"In these mean and ghastly times, we have to seek grace wherever we can find it. I found it ast week in two groups,, one of nuns and the other of Jewish activists, both willing to be arrested as witnesses on behalf of immigrant and refugee children being abused by our own government."

Dionne continues:

"The Hebrew Bible is very clear on thee matters too. Thus Exodus 22:21: 'You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

What are those who take scripture seriously to do in the face of the Trump administration's willful mistreatment of children and families? If you are part of a group of Catholic nuns and their allies in Washington D. C., you sit-in at the Capitol, kie down and form a human cross."


Jewish group have also condemned the Trump p administration's anti-refugee and asylum policies: The Israeli newspaperHaaretz quotes Melanie Nezer of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) as follows:

"The United States government is further down the road toward full abdication of our role as the world's humanitarian leader in refugee protection...) See:

Jewish groups slam Trump's new asylum rule making it harder for migrants to enter the US

https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/premium-jewish-groups-slam-trump-s-new-asylum-rule-1.7533170

To be sure, there are millions of people today around the wold who have been forced to become refugees or asylum seekers, because of wars, upheavals, tyranny, persecution and other forms of oppression in many parts of the world.

UNHCR estimates the total number as 25.9 million refugees ad 3.5 million asylum seekers. Arguably, the United States may not have room for all of these..


But is the fact that there are so many refugees around the world an excuse for accepting none at all. as Stephen Miller is now advocating? That is no different from the argument that was used in America to turn back Jewish refugees and condemn them to the concentration camps and gas chambers of Europe not so long ago.

I
n Part 2 of this two-part series, I will examine how Trump's and Miller's zero-refugee admissions proposal violates current international laws and standards protecting refugee human rights.



Roger Algase
Attorney at Law