As far as most American Jews are concerned, opposition to President Donald Trump isn’t so much an option as a religious obligation. That’s partly due to genuine revulsion against his ugly taunts as well as partisan loyalty to his opponents. But the issue that has galvanized the Jewish “resistance” to Trump is immigration.
But while there is a general agreement that Trump was way out of bounds with his xenophobic and disgraceful tweet declaring that “the squad” of left-wing congresswomen should “go back where they came from,” it’s a mistake to think this consensus extends to all of the administration’s policies. To the contrary, any expectation that Jewish conservatives would feel obligated to go along with opposition to Trump’s stand on illegal immigration or have any sympathy with the current positions being taken by the Democrats is as absurd as it is wrongheaded.
Trump’s policies — as opposed to his language — are in no way reminiscent of the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust. The assertion that a willingness to enforce the laws against illegal immigration is fascist, as some on the left are explicitly saying, is not only offensive; it is contrary to the Jewish values that liberals claim to be upholding.
As a community that is mindful of its immigrant heritage as well as what happened during the Holocaust when refugees were turned away from America, it is understandable that Jews are sympathetic to immigrants. The deplorable conditions at detention camps as the resources of the government have been overwhelmed by a surge of illegal entries and the often dubious asylum claims by economic migrants in the last several months are also worthy of concern. That was also true of Trump’s brief attempt to enforce a “zero tolerance” policy at the border that led to family separations that were condemned by a broad consensus on both sides of the aisle.
But there is a difference between supporting more liberal immigration laws and compassionate treatment of those who are caught breaking them and the radical stands that have now been embraced by Jewish liberals.
The left-wing Jewish groups like Never Again Action that are organizing the demonstrations against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency are essentially opposing any enforcement of laws against illegal immigration. Democratic presidential candidates were also nearly unanimous about decriminalization of illegal entry into the United States.
But while conditions at the border should be improved, those opposed to Trump on this issue are guilty of hypocrisy since only a few months ago they were claiming there was no crisis when denying the president funding for border security.
What Democrats are now proposing in terms of decriminalization and entitlements for those who cross the border illegally puts us in uncharted territory. It is not unfair to note that such stands are indistinguishable from advocacy for open borders. But the notion that such a policy is somehow consonant with Jewish values is false.
Whatever you may think of Trump, every mass movement across the border has been preceded by liberal promises that no one need worry about being held accountable for breaking the law. The only way to curtail this flood of migrants — and thereby relieve the crisis — is to ensure that all those who try will be caught and deported. Democratic pledges of amnesty, free health care, college tuition and driver’s licenses led directly to the unfolding catastrophe.
But what the left is forgetting is that sovereignty and the rule of law — the values that are being trashed by those making inappropriate Holocaust analogies, calling for abolishing ICE and essentially erasing the border — are actually good for the Jews.
The problem Jews faced in the 1930s was partly the result of restrictive U.S. immigration legislation and the anti-Semitic refusal of some officials to let in refugees that did qualify under the law. But the refugees — who were fleeing for their lives and not just seeking a better life — were in that position because the rule of law had broken down in Europe as the Nazis sought to abrogate the sovereign rights of all nations not named Germany.
If generations of Jews have found a haven in the United States, it is because it is a nation of laws. Destroy the rule of law — and that is exactly what the liberals who seek to strip the U.S. of its sovereign right to determine who may pass through its border are advocating whether they admit it or not — and no one, least of all religious minorities like Jews, will be safe. That’s why most Jewish conservatives will stand with the president on immigration even if they don’t like his language.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS.org and a contributing writer for National Review. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.