Open borders, but not for Jews!

The Dark Legacy of Anti-Semitism and Closed Borders: A Tragic Chapter in Jewish History

We in the United States are living through tumultuous times! Drone videos and border patrol representatives have proven to anyone who wants to see that our southern border is wide open, even though Secretary Mayorkas insists otherwise.

Millions of people have streamed across the border. Flown and bussed secretly to cities and towns all over the country, bringing with them human trafficking, drugs, and crime. The Federal Government and the sanctuary cities that have pledged admittance now provide free housing (filling hotels and in street-cluttered tent cities), free education and health benefits, food, and financial aid while denying the same to homeless and poor veterans and the needy on the same streets as illegal immigrants reside.

There is a clear legal pathway to entry into the United States. Aliens who chose to skirt the legal system – if they were apprehended – were deported for the most part – albeit with frequent illegal re-entries. Exceptions to quotas were applied in the case of refugees legitimately seeking asylum. But today, little effort is made to determine if proper asylum criteria have been met. Instead, those flooding into the border are scripted and funded, in many cases, by the cartels.

Taking advantage of the overburdened border, those who come through are detained (but not universally), sometimes given a court date, and let into the country, most of whom do not appear in court. The undeniable statistics document that more than a million immigrants have evaded processing, detection, and vetting, including people on the terrorist watch list.

This unending wave of undocumented aliens, who have entered and stayed, has made a mockery of the rule of law, repeated in countries throughout Europe and North America. Those who protest these policies are branded as “racists,” “capitalists,” and “white supremacists.” The defense of this is couched in terms of humanitarian efforts, proclaimed as evidence of a democratic civilization. Yet, in a pandering speech this week at Commencement exercises at Howard University, President Biden labeled “white supremacists” (which he has frequently equated to Republicans) as the greatest terroristic threat to national security!

So – has this free-wheeling policy been applied uniformly throughout history to the Jewish people? For sure, the United States was called, in glowing terms, the “melting pot” of the world, and the Statue of Liberty greeted millions of all nationalities with the motto: “Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Nevertheless, a quota system was established and codified in 1924 by the Johnson-Reed Act, limiting immigration to the United States. In July 1938, after the rise of Nazism and the Nuremberg laws, the Austrian Anschluss, and the annexation of Czechoslovakia, the United States initiated the Evans Conference to address the refugee crisis with the nations of Europe and the Americas – but no consensus could be reached. In the aftermath of Kristallnacht in November 1938, a Gallup poll found that 94% of Americans disapproved of the mistreatment of Jews in Europe. Still, only 21% supported increasing Jewish immigration to the United States.

In May 1939, the St. Louis, carrying 937 refugees, left Bremen for Cuba. Only 29 were permitted entry, and the ship continued its fateful journey seeking asylum in the United States, which was denied, sending the ship back to Europe. Needlessly tragic, many of its passengers were exterminated in concentration camps.

By 1942, newspapers in Europe and the United States reported the rounding up and liquidation of Jewish communities and their internment in concentration camps. By 1944, photographs of the railroad tracks leading to Auschwitz and undisputed evidence of the mass murder of Jews were known. During the strategic bombing of Germany by the Allies in World War II, some Jewish leaders even advocated the bombing of the Auschwitz concentration camp itself, as by July of 1944, the United States and the United Kingdom developed the capacity to reach Auschwitz with strategic bombing. However, the United States declined to bomb Auschwitz, citing technical and strategic concerns, causing the extermination of millions of Jews in the ensuing year before the end of World War II.

My own story began with my birth in 1945 in Krakow. My parents, who lost their families to Hitler, sought to settle in my father’s birthplace. But when his best friend, who had survived the war with him – including the Battle of Stalingrad, during which nearly two million perished – was killed in a pogrom brought on by the Poles. After that, we felt we had no option but to leave for the border. Instead of being admitted into Germany, where the British and American armies had undertaken the task of housing the survivors and their families, we lived in a railroad car for several months, along with countless others, until the doors opened. I spent the next four-plus years in displaced persons camps, often in converted German barracks and cramped living quarters. And without medical care, my infant brother died.

It took all that time for a great aunt, who had migrated to the United States in the 1920s, to find us and sponsor our coming to New York. Without a sponsor, the quota system limited the number of Jewish survivor families from emigrating to the United States. The borders were certainly not open! When we arrived on a converted battleship, we had to undergo a screening process at Ellis Island before being admitted. The doors did not fling open just because we had emerged from the horror and nightmare of the Holocaust.

The Jews who came to the United States before or after the war settled in communities, got jobs and education, and supported their families. Few became wards of the state or lived at the taxpayers’ cost. Nevertheless, despite their contributions to society, limited immigration was the norm.

Seeing the current landscape and how those seeking visas, green cards, and lawful entry continue to have to meet the constraints and bounds of the immigration system, the southern border is a painful and sharp contrast to what Jews and other nationalities have faced in seeking admission and citizenship.

Why has a historical double standard been applied to Jews when chaos reigns daily in the lives of Americans with a wide-open southern border? Why does this country countenance drug smuggling, human trafficking, and other crimes from those who have little claim for refugee status? Why are millions entering this country breaking the immigration laws that apply to others, and who turned a blind eye to the Jews of the Holocaust?

Unfortunately, these questions remain unanswered, and the reasons are steeped in political gamesmanship and Anti-Semitism. As a Child of Survivors, the disparity in treatment is difficult to justify. Simply put, there were and are Open Borders – but not for Jews!


About the Author
Naphtali Perlberger is a senior lecturer for AISH HaTorah and gives weekly shiurim at Chabad of Golden Beach and Aish Chaim of the Main Line. He is one of the founders and a past president of the Philadelphia Community Kollel. He is Founder & President of Philadelphia Chapter of Children of the Holocaust, and past FJA Chairman of Men's Organizations; past President of Kosloff Torah Academy; and, talk show host for a radio show, "G-d is Listening".