When a stranger resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the stranger who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the stranger as yourself; for you too were once strangers in the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)
Many of the world’s religious traditions share the teaching that we human beings are all created in one image and are beloved by our Creator. Rooted in this teaching, we are further instructed to care for our kin who are most vulnerable among us, including strangers in the land, for they too are beloved of our Creator.
For those of us who are not indigenous First Nations people, it is a literal, as well as spiritual reality that our ancestors were once strangers in this land. Some came enslaved in chains, others came to flee violence or to build better lives for their children. Our ancestors were not always treated justly. But among those who came here before them, there were those who saw in the strangers’ faces the face of our Creator and welcomed, fed, healed, and cared for them.
Federal immigration policy in many ways denies our kinship with the stranger, forcing our neighbors to live underground and in fear. Reform is halted by gridlock in the US Senate and Congress. Our traditions call upon us to not wait, but to do what we are able to ensure our kin are treated justly. Here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we can make a difference for our immigrant neighbors, and set a shining example of justice, as we have often done, for the rest of the nation.
In alignment with our traditions, which remind us that we are all fellow children of our Creator and that we too were once vulnerable strangers in a strange land, cared for by those who came before us, we unite in urging you to promptly hold a hearing on
[to Rep. John Fernandes & Sen. William Brownsberger, Joint Judiciary Committee; to Rep. Harold Naughton & Sen. James Timilty, Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security] the Trust Act (S.1258 / H.1228). The Trust Act would address the collaboration by local law enforcement agencies in the detention and deportation of our fellow immigrants by federal immigration authorities. This collaboration blurs the line between local police and immigration officers and encourages racial profiling. The Trust Act would direct local law enforcement officials not to detain an individual at the request of federal immigration agents in the absence of a court-issued criminal warrant. It would rebuild trust between police and immigrants, and help protect localities from liability for violating residents’ constitutional rights. Similar measures have already been passed in New England by the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island, and in Massachusetts by the towns and cities of Amherst, Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, and Hamden County.
[to Rep. William Straus & Sen. Thomas McGee, Joint Transportation Committee] the Safe Driving Bill (H. 2985). The Safe Driving Bill would make the roads safer for all Massachusetts residents by removing immigration status as a barrier to going through the licensing process. If passed, Massachusetts would allow all qualified residents to take the driver’s exam, buy insurance, and carry a valid driver’s license – making all residents safer on the roads and rebuilding trust between our communities and local law enforcement officials. In New England, Connecticut and Vermont allow and require all their resident drivers to be trained, licensed, and insured.
When we welcome the stranger and treat our most vulnerable kin with justice and compassion, we rebuild trust in our communities and make everyone safer. Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your favorable response.