The left is outraged that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would dare to cite the New Testament in support of the Trump administration’s policies of enforcing immigration laws at the country’s borders.
Many have responded by citing the Old Testament injunction in Leviticus 19 to welcome the stranger. However, they are misinterpreting the verse. A more accurate interpretation of the passages in Leviticus actually supports the administration’s policy.
Leviticus 19:33-34 reads as follows (Chabad translation):
33. When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not taunt him.
34. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be as a native from among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord, your God.
Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer and Laura Nasrallah write in the Washington Post that these lines “argue for care for the stranger and the immigrant.”
This is a case, however, where reading the Bible in translation misses some of the original meaning. The Bible uses a Hebrew word used for “stranger,” “גֵר” (“ger”), which is also the word for “convert.”
The implication is that the “stranger” who “sojourns with you” does not merely live among you, but also agrees to obey your God and your laws.
That is how the rabbinical commentators understand the phrase, noting that it is forbidden to remind a “ger” that he used to worship idols and that he had now undertaken the study of the Torah that God had given the Jews.
So, yes — the Bible commands us to “care for the stranger and the immigrant.” But the implication is that they will first agree to obey our laws.
That is the thrust of the Trump administration’s policy: to provide a path for those legal immigrants who agree to honor the laws of the United States, and to prosecute those whose first act is to defy them.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.