Sunday, August 09, 2009

"Do not mistreat the stranger living in your land"

I worry for the emigrant children I know. They are working hard in school. What waits for them when they graduate from high school?

Extracts from statement by the Community Relations Council of the Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish Federation

We Were Strangers Too: Why We Must Speak Out for Greater College Access

Our Jewish values and religious teachings, coupled with lessons from our history, call us to strongly speak out in favor of allowing qualified undocumented students to enroll in North Carolina's community colleges and public universities, and against the current state community college policy barring such enrollment.

As people of faith and conscience, we believe that our calling is to welcome immigrants, offering them hospitality and justice.

In the Bible, it states: "Do not mistreat the stranger living in your land, but treat him just as you treat the native among you. Love strangers as you love yourselves, because you were strangers once in the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34).

The Bible also commands us all: "Justice, justice shall you pursue." (Deuteronomy 16:20).

Enabling immigrant students to attend public colleges and universities would give an equal opportunity to those young people who have grown up in North Carolina, and been educated in North Carolina public schools, to continue their education. Justice, and love of the stranger, require no less.

This is also about investing in the future of North Carolina and the people who live, work and raise families here. It is about policies that promote a vibrant economy as well as a cohesive and just society.

These are high school students who have attended elementary and secondary schools in this state for most of their lives, are likely to remain in the state and are high achieving and highly motivated to succeed.

By allowing these students to pursue higher education, the state can benefit from their talents as bilingual and bicultural workers and professionals who will contribute to the state's collective productivity and economic growth.

It is crucial that all people of faith and conscience engage in this discussion regarding access to higher education for undocumented immigrant students. We encourage our Jewish, Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters to step up and welcome the stranger who is also our neighbor.

People of good will must not be silent; they must speak out in favor of legislation that supports our shared values and against proposed bills that sow anti-immigrant prejudice and misunderstanding.

For people of faith, the stranger reflects an opportunity, not a problem.

In the words of Elie Wiesel, who experienced first-hand the unjust enmity of those who viewed him as a "stranger," as "other": "The stranger suggests a world to be believed in, enhanced, or saved. In the Jewish tradition, the stranger may very well be someone important: a prophet in disguise, one of the hidden just men, or even the Messiah. He must be accepted for what he is, the way he is."



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