Immigration in the Haggadah and Halachah
1 א

(ד) מזגו לו כוס שני. וכאן הבן שואל אביו...ודורש מארמי אובד אבי. עד שיגמור כל הפרשה כולה:

(ה) רבן גמליאל היה אומר. כל שלא אמר שלשה דברים אלו בפסח...בכל דור ודור חייב אדם לראות את עצמו. כאילו הוא יצא ממצרים. שנאמר (שמות יג, ח) והגדת לבנך ביום ההוא לאמר. בעבור זה עשה יי לי בצאתי ממצרים...

After they pour a second cup, the child asks his father... and he explains from "My father was a wandering Aramean" until the end of that passage.

Rabban Gamliel used to say: Whoever does not mentioned these three things on Passover does not discharge his duty, and these are they: the Passover-offering, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs... [The] bitter herb is [eaten] because the Egyptians embittered the lives of our ancestors in Egypt.

In every generation a person must regard himself as though he personally had gone out of Egypt, as it is said: “And you shall tell your son in that day, saying: ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.’”

2 ב

What impact would it have to regard yourself as having left Egypt?

Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveitchik, Festival of Freedom: Essays on Pesach and the Haggadah

The standard text reads, “In each generation, one is duty-bound lirot et atzmo, to consider himself, as if he had been delivered from Egyptian bondage.” Instead of the reflexive verb lirot et atzmo, signifying an inner experience, Maimonides substitutes the verb, l’harot et atzmo, to demonstrate, to behave in a manner manifesting the experience of finding liberty after having been enslaved for a long time.

3 ג
(ה) וְעָנִ֨יתָ וְאָמַרְתָּ֜ לִפְנֵ֣י ׀ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֗יךָ אֲרַמִּי֙ אֹבֵ֣ד אָבִ֔י וַיֵּ֣רֶד מִצְרַ֔יְמָה וַיָּ֥גָר שָׁ֖ם בִּמְתֵ֣י מְעָ֑ט וַֽיְהִי־שָׁ֕ם לְג֥וֹי גָּד֖וֹל עָצ֥וּם וָרָֽב׃ (ו) וַיָּרֵ֧עוּ אֹתָ֛נוּ הַמִּצְרִ֖ים וַיְעַנּ֑וּנוּ וַיִּתְּנ֥וּ עָלֵ֖ינוּ עֲבֹדָ֥ה קָשָֽׁה׃ (ז) וַנִּצְעַ֕ק אֶל־יְהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵ֣י אֲבֹתֵ֑ינוּ וַיִּשְׁמַ֤ע יְהוָה֙ אֶת־קֹלֵ֔נוּ וַיַּ֧רְא אֶת־עָנְיֵ֛נוּ וְאֶת־עֲמָלֵ֖נוּ וְאֶת־לַחֲצֵֽנוּ׃ (ח) וַיּוֹצִאֵ֤נוּ יְהוָה֙ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם בְּיָ֤ד חֲזָקָה֙ וּבִזְרֹ֣עַ נְטוּיָ֔ה וּבְמֹרָ֖א גָּדֹ֑ל וּבְאֹת֖וֹת וּבְמֹפְתִֽים׃ (ט) וַיְבִאֵ֖נוּ אֶל־הַמָּק֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה וַיִּתֶּן־לָ֙נוּ֙ אֶת־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֔את אֶ֛רֶץ זָבַ֥ת חָלָ֖ב וּדְבָֽשׁ׃

(5) You shall then recite as follows before the LORD your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation. (6) The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us. (7) We cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression. (8) The LORD freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents. (9) He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

4 ד

From the Haggadah:

This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need join in our Passover. This year we are here, next year in Israel. This year we are slaves, next year we will be free.

5 ה
(כ) וְגֵ֥ר לֹא־תוֹנֶ֖ה וְלֹ֣א תִלְחָצֶ֑נּוּ כִּֽי־גֵרִ֥ים הֱיִיתֶ֖ם בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃

(20) You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

6 ו

(כ) כי גרים הייתם. ... כָּל לְשׁוֹן גֵּר אָדָם שֶׁלֹּא נוֹלַד בְּאוֹתָהּ מְדִינָה, אֶלָּא בָּא מִמְּדִינָה אַחֶרֶת לָגוּר שָׁם:

Wherever גר occurs in Scriptures it signifies a person who has not been born in that land (where he is living) but has come from another country to sojourn there.

7 ז
(ג) כי גרים הייתם - כמו שמפורש לפנינו ואתם ידעתם את נפש הגר. כי גרים הייתם - ולפי שצרתו מרובה עונשו מרובה.

(3) כי גרים הייתם, due to your personal experience of such a status, you, better than anyone else, know that seeing that the oppression of strangers is a great wrong, the punishment for violating such a commandment is equally harsh. (compare Exodus 23,9)

8 ח

(א) וגר. כאשר יקבל הגר שלא לעבוד עבודת כוכבים לא תונהו בארצך. בעבור שיש לך כח רב ממנו. וזכור כי גרים הייתם כמוהו. וכאשר הזכיר הגר שאין לו כח ככה היתום והאלמנה שהם ישראלים ואין להם כח.

(1) And a stranger – once the stranger accepts not to worship idolatry, you cannot oppress him in your country/land, because you are more powerful than him. And remember! You were strangers like him. And the same way that the text reminds you that the stranger does not have power, so too the widow and the orphans, who are Israelites, have no power.

9 ט

Based on the commentators' explanations, who today qualifies as a ger ("stranger")?

10 י
(ט) וְגֵ֖ר לֹ֣א תִלְחָ֑ץ וְאַתֶּ֗ם יְדַעְתֶּם֙ אֶת־נֶ֣פֶשׁ הַגֵּ֔ר כִּֽי־גֵרִ֥ים הֱיִיתֶ֖ם בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃

(9) You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having been strangers in the land of Egypt.

11 יא
(יט) וַאֲהַבְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־הַגֵּ֑ר כִּֽי־גֵרִ֥ים הֱיִיתֶ֖ם בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃

(19) You shall love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

12 יב
(לג) וְכִֽי־יָג֧וּר אִתְּךָ֛ גֵּ֖ר בְּאַרְצְכֶ֑ם לֹ֥א תוֹנ֖וּ אֹתֽוֹ׃ (לד) כְּאֶזְרָ֣ח מִכֶּם֩ יִהְיֶ֨ה לָכֶ֜ם הַגֵּ֣ר ׀ הַגָּ֣ר אִתְּכֶ֗ם וְאָהַבְתָּ֥ לוֹ֙ כָּמ֔וֹךָ כִּֽי־גֵרִ֥ים הֱיִיתֶ֖ם בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם אֲנִ֖י יי אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃

When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the Eternal am your God.

13 יג
(טז) לֹא־תַסְגִּ֥יר עֶ֖בֶד אֶל־אֲדֹנָ֑יו אֲשֶׁר־יִנָּצֵ֥ל אֵלֶ֖יךָ מֵעִ֥ם אֲדֹנָֽיו׃ (יז) עִמְּךָ֞ יֵשֵׁ֣ב בְּקִרְבְּךָ֗ בַּמָּק֧וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֛ר בְּאַחַ֥ד שְׁעָרֶ֖יךָ בַּטּ֣וֹב ל֑וֹ לֹ֖א תּוֹנֶֽנּוּ׃ (ס)

You shall not turn over to his master a slave who seeks refuge with you from his master. He shall live with you in any place he may choose among the settlements in your midst, wherever he pleases; you must not ill-treat him.

14 יד
(כא) וְחִלַּקְתֶּ֞ם אֶת־הָאָ֧רֶץ הַזֹּ֛את לָכֶ֖ם לְשִׁבְטֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ (כב) וְהָיָ֗ה תַּפִּ֣לוּ אוֹתָהּ֮ בְּנַחֲלָה֒ לָכֶ֗ם וּלְהַגֵּרִים֙ הַגָּרִ֣ים בְּתוֹכְכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־הוֹלִ֥דוּ בָנִ֖ים בְּתֽוֹכְכֶ֑ם וְהָי֣וּ לָכֶ֗ם כְּאֶזְרָח֙ בִּבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אִתְּכֶם֙ יִפְּל֣וּ בְנַחֲלָ֔ה בְּת֖וֹךְ שִׁבְטֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ (כג) וְהָיָ֣ה בַשֵּׁ֔בֶט אֲשֶׁר־גָּ֥ר הַגֵּ֖ר אִתּ֑וֹ שָׁ֚ם תִּתְּנ֣וּ נַחֲלָת֔וֹ נְאֻ֖ם אדושם יי (ס)

(21) This land you shall divide for yourselves among the tribes of Israel. You shall allot it as a heritage for yourselves and for the strangers who reside among you, who have begotten children among you. You shall treat them as Israelite citizens; they shall receive allotments along with you among the tribes of Israel. You shall give the stranger an allotment within the tribe where he resides—declares the Lord GOD.

15 טו
(ד) לֹֽא־יָבֹ֧א עַמּוֹנִ֛י וּמוֹאָבִ֖י בִּקְהַ֣ל יי גַּ֚ם דּ֣וֹר עֲשִׂירִ֔י לֹא־יָבֹ֥א לָהֶ֛ם בִּקְהַ֥ל יי עַד־עוֹלָֽם׃ (ה) עַל־דְּבַ֞ר אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹא־קִדְּמ֤וּ אֶתְכֶם֙ בַּלֶּ֣חֶם וּבַמַּ֔יִם בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶ֣ם מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם וַאֲשֶׁר֩ שָׂכַ֨ר עָלֶ֜יךָ אֶת־בִּלְעָ֣ם בֶּן־בְּע֗וֹר מִפְּת֛וֹר אֲרַ֥ם נַהֲרַ֖יִם לְקַֽלְלֶֽךָּ׃

No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted into the congregation of the LORD; none of their descendants, even in the tenth generation, shall ever be admitted into the congregation of the LORD, because they did not meet you with food and water on your journey after you left Egypt...

16 טז

Based on the above sources, what specific obligations do we have as Jews toward gerim today?

17 יז

(א) מצות אהבת הגרים - שנצטוינו לאהב הגרים, כלומר, שנזהר שלא לצער אותם, בשום דבר, אבל נעשה להם טובה ונגמל אותם חסד כפי הראוי והיכלת, והגרים הם, כל מי שנתחבר אלינו משאר האמות שהניח דתו ונכנס בדתנו, ועליהם נאמר (דברים י יט) ואהבתם את הגר וגו'. ואף על פי שיכללהו כמו כן הצווי בישראל, שנאמר עליו ואהבת לרעך כמוך (מצוה רמג), שהרי גר צדק בכלל רעך הוא, הוסיף לנו השם בו מצוה מיחדת לו באהבתו, וכמו כן הדבר במניעה מלרמות אותו, שאף על פי שהיה בכלל ולא תונו איש את עמיתו (מצוה שלח), הוסיף לנו הכתוב בו מניעה מיחדת לו, באמרו וגר לא תונה (מצוה כג). ואמרו בגמרא (ב''מ נט, ב), שהמאנה הגר עובר משום לא תונו וגו', ומשום וגר לא תונה, וכמו כן מבטל מצות ואהבת לרעך, ומצות ואהבתם את הגר.

(ב) משרשי המצוה. כי השם בחר בישראל להיות לו לעם קדוש ורצה לזכותם, ולכן הדריכם וצום על דרכי החנינה והחמלה, והזהירם להתעטר בכל מדה חמודה ויקרה למצא חן בעיני כל רואיהם, ויאמרו (יחזקאל לו כ) עם יי אלה. וכמה היא דרך נעימות וחמדה להתחסד ולגמל טובה לאשר הניח אמתו וכל משפחת בית אביו ואמו, ויבוא לחסות תחת כנפי אמה אחרת באהבתו אותה, ובבחירתו באמת ושנאת השקר, ובהיותנו זוכים למדות טובות הללו תחול טובת האל עלינו ותדבק בנו, ושום דבר לא תמנענו ממנו, כי הטובה תתפשט בטובים, והפכה ברעים.

(ג) מדיני המצוה. מה שאמרו זכרונם לברכה (ב''מ נח, ב) שלא יאמר אדם לגר זכור מעשיך הראשונים. ומה שאמרו (סנהדרין צד, א) גיורא עד עשרה דרי לא תבזי ארמאה באנפיה, וכל זה שלא לצערו בשום ענין. והפלגת האהבה שהפליגו בהם עד שאמרו, שהשוה הכתוב אהבתם לאהבת המקום, שבהם נאמר ואהבתם, ובאהבת המקום ואהבת וגו', והוא כמו שכתבתי בסדר משפטים במצות שלא להונות הגר אפילו בדברים (מצוה סג). ויתר פרטיה, במדרשות ובמקומות בגמרא [הל' דעות פ''ו].

(ד) ונוהגת מצוה זו בכל מקום ובכל זמן בזכרים ונקבות. והעובר עליה ומצער אותם, או שמתרשל בהצלתם, או בהצלת ממונם, או שמקל בכבודם מצד שהם גרים ואין להם עוזר באמה, בטל עשה זה. וענשו גדול מאד, שהרי בכמה מקומות הזהירה תורה עליהם. ויש לנו ללמד מן המצוה היקרה הזאת לרחם על אדם שהוא בעיר שאינה ארץ מולדתו ומקום משפחות אבותיו, ולא נעביר עליו הדרך במוצאנו אותו יחידי ורחקו מעליו עוזריו, כמו שאנו רואים שהתורה תזהירנו לרחם על כל מי שצריך עזר, ועם המדות הללו נזכה להיות מרחמים מהשם יתברך, וברכות שמים ינוחו על ראשינו, והכתוב רמז טעם הצווי באמרו כי גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים, הזכיר לנו שכבר נכוינו בצער הגדול הזה שיש לכל איש הרואה את עצמו בתוך אנשים זרים ובארץ נכריה, ובזכרנו גדל דאגת הלב שיש בדבר, וכי כבר עבר עלינו, והשם בחסדיו הוציאנו משם יכמרו רחמינו על כל אדם שהוא כן.

(1) The commandment of loving the strangers (converts): That we were commanded to love the converts, meaning to say that we be careful not to cause them pain in any thing, but [rather to] do them good and grant them kindness according to what is proper and is possible. And converts are anyone who connects with us from the other nations, that leaves his religion and enters into our religion. And about them is it stated (Deuteronomy 10:19), "And you shall love the stranger, etc." And even though the commandment (Sefer HaChinukh 243) about the Israelite includes him, as it is stated about him (Leviticus 19:18), "and you shall love your neighbor as yourself" - since behold, a righteous convert is included in "your neighbor" - God added for us a specific commandment about his love. And so too is the thing in the prevention against cheating him. As even though he was included in "A man shall not wrong his countryman" (Leviticus 25:17, Sefer HaChinukh 338), Scripture added a specific prevention about him in its stating, "You shall not wrong a stranger" (Exodus 22:20, Sefer HaChinukh 23). And they said in the Gemara (Bava Metzia 59b) that one who wrongs the convert transgresses because of "[A man] shall not wrong" and because of "You shall not wrong a stranger." And so too [with this], he nullifies the commandment of "and you shall love your neighbor" and the commandment of "And you shall love the stranger."

(2) It is from the roots of the commandment that God chose Israel to be a holy nation and wanted to give them merit. And therefore He guided them and commanded them about the ways of grace and compassion and warned them to crown themselves with every beautiful and precious trait to find grace in the eyes of all who see them, [such] that they will say, "These are the people of the Lord" (Ezekiel 36:20). And it is so much the way of pleasantnesses and beauty to show kindness and to grant good to one who leaves his people and all the family of the house of his father and mother and comes to take shelter under the wings of a different nation in his love for it, and in his choosing of truth and his hatred for falsehood. And in our meriting these good traits, the goodness of God will rest upon us and cling to us, and nothing will prevent us from it; as the good will extend to the good ones and the opposite to the bad ones.

(4) ... And we should learn from this precious commandment to have mercy on a man who is in a city that is not the land of his birth and the place of the family of his fathers. And we should not pass him by on the road when we find him alone and that his helpers are far from him, since we find that the Torah warns us to have mercy on anyone who needs help. And with these traits, we will merit to receive mercy from God, may He be blessed, and the blessings of Heaven will rest upon our heads. And Scripture hints to the reason of the command when it states, "since you were strangers in the Land of Egypt": It mentions to us that we were previously burnt by this great pain that there is to every man who sees himself among foreign people and in a foreign land. And upon our remembering the great worry of the heart that there is in the matter, and that it already passed over us and that God, in His kindnesses, took us out of there, our mercies for any person like this will overwhelm [us].

18 יח

אמר רב הונא בריה דרב יהושע פשיטא לי בר מתא אבר מתא אחריתי מצי מעכב ואי שייך בכרגא דהכא לא מצי מעכב בר מבואה אבר מבואה דנפשיה לא מצי מעכב בעי

Rav Huna the son of Rav Yehoshua said: It is quite clear to me that the residents of one town can prevent the resident of another town [from setting up in competition in this town], but not, however, if he pays taxes to that town; and that the resident of an alley cannot prevent another resident of the same alley [from setting up in competition in his alley].

19 יט

(טו) שאלה לא"א הרא"ש ז"ל יהודי שרוצה ללכת לכפר לדור שם להרויח וא"ל אנשי אותו כפר קמפסדת לחיותינו ורוצים להרחיקו מעל גבולם. תשובה אין יכולין למנעו דלא קאמר תלמודא אלא אדם הדר בעיר הזאת ובא להעמיד רחיים או חנות במקום אחר ואינו שייך במס שלהם יכולין בני אותה העיר לעכב עליו אבל דבר פשוט הוא שאדם יכול לגור בכל מקום שירצה ואין בני העיר יכולין לעכב עליו וכי קנו אותו הראשונים בחזקה:

15. A question to my lord and father the Rosh: A Jew who wants to go to a town to live there to earn money. And the people of the town say, “You are decreasing our livelihood,” and wish to distance him from their border.

Answer: They cannot prevent them for the Talmud only talks about a person who lives in a different town and is coming to set up a mill or a store in a different place and they are not included in their tax, the citizens of that town can prevent them, but it is an obvious thing that a person can live wherever they want and the citizens of the town cannot prevent them, for did the original settlers acquire the land through legal acquisition?

20כ

מהרי"ק בשורש (קצ"ד) [קצ"א] האריך מאד בדינים אלו וכתב שזה שכתב הרא"ש

בתשובה שאדם יכול לדור בכל מקום ואין בני העיר יכולים לעכב עליו שירצה פשיטא שרוצה לומר שאין בני העיר יכולים לעכב עליו על פי בית דין אבל אם תגבר יד בני העיר לסגור דשא באפיה הן על ידי השר הן על ידי שום מונע פשיטא שהרשות בידם ולא יחלוק על זה כי אם העיקש והפתלתול אשר לא ידע ולא יבין ולא הגיע עד כאן לשונו.

Bet Yosef, ad loc

he meant to say that the citizens cannot prevent them by way of Beit Din, but if they are able to close the door in their face whether by way of the secular authorities or by way of any block, it is obvious that they have that option. And the only person who would disagree with this must be stubborn and twisted, uncomprehending and unfit to rule.

21 כא

On the Refugee Crisis by Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks

You would have to be less than human not to be moved by images of the refugee crisis threatening to overwhelm Europe: the scenes in Budapest, the 71 bodies found in the abandoned lorry in Austria, the 200 people drowned when their boat capsized off the coast in Libya and, most heartbreaking of all, the body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, lifeless on a Turkish shore: an image that will linger long in the mind as a symbol of a world gone mad.

This is the greatest humanitarian challenge faced by Europe in decades. Angela Merkel was not wrong when she said: “If Europe fails on the question of refugees, its close connection with universal civil rights will be destroyed.”...

...I used to think that the most important line in the Bible was “Love your neighbour as yourself”. Then I realised that it is easy to love your neighbour because he or she is usually quite like yourself. What is hard is to love the stranger, one whose colour, culture or creed is different from yours. That is why the command, “Love the stranger because you were once strangers”, resonates so often throughout the Bible. It is summoning us now... Wars that cannot be won by weapons can sometimes be won by the sheer power of acts of humanitarian generosity to inspire the young to choose the way of peace instead of holy war.

22 כב

Who are the strangers we find it challenging to love? What do you think of Sack's chgallenge to us?

23 כג

Abraham, Sarah and the Arizona immigration law

The Oregonian, May 3, 2010

By Maurice Harris

In the Bible's Book of Genesis, we read about Abraham and Sarah's journey to the Promised Land. Shortly after they arrive, they encounter famine and head to Egypt in search of food. Foreigners without family or clan to protect them, they are afraid. Abraham asks Sarah to pretend to be his sister in the hope that this will help them avoid trouble -- an act of deceit that made sense in the context of their times. The gamble works out badly. Pharaoh's courtiers notice Sarah's beauty, and the king summons her to his harem. Only divine intervention lets Sarah escape without having to sleep with the king.

It's a pitiable story. Abraham and Sarah lie and humiliate themselves to try to survive in a foreign nation they have not received permission to enter. It must have been agonizing. It's a story of strangers in a strange land, without protection, without connections and without a right to go about their business unmolested. It's an illegal immigrant's story...

It's also a story that Jews have known well many times over in many lands. Jews desperately did whatever necessary to seek a safe haven in different countries after the Spanish Expulsion of 1492. During the great Jewish immigration waves to the U.S., in order to escape poverty and anti-Semitism, some Jews faked their documents or "married" American citizens to gain entry to the country. During the Nazi era, most European Jews couldn't legally emigrate to other countries. Some weighed their options and chose to try to escape Hitler by making their way to British-run Palestine -- but even in attempting to emigrate to their ancient homeland, they had to enter Palestine as illegal immigrants. They used many forms of disguise and deceit to get there.

Abraham and Sarah's deception is pathetic. As uninvited immigrants, these unwanted Hebrews have no social or governmental structure to protect them -- no way to seek recourse against anyone harming them or taking advantage of them financially or, as the sister/bride deception points to, sexually. Years pass, they return to Canaan, and still their marginal status as immigrants continues. They face suspicion from the native citizens and do their best to try to gain a foothold in their adopted country. When Sarah dies, despite the many years Abraham has lived and worked in Canaan, he still has not so much as even a claim to a grave site where he can bury her. He ends up having to go to the country's citizens, hat in hand, and ask if he can purchase a small cave for her grave. He ends up overpaying for it.

Abraham and Sarah came to Canaan without permission, but they brought blessings to the people of the region. Mexican and Latino farmworkers, legal or not, bring Americans the blessing and bounty of cheap and abundant produce, and poverty drives most of them across our borders.

...In the Jewish community, we know from our experience that when people are desperate and seeking a better life, and when they are in precarious circumstances, sometimes they lie or break the law in order to get by. It's humiliating. It's not what people would prefer to do. We can judge them for it, or we can try to empathize and factor in their circumstances and difficult choices as we try to find better national policy.

24 כד

The Facts on Immigration Today: 2017 Edition

By the Center for American Progress Immigration Team and Michael D. Nicholson

  • In recent years, the unauthorized population has declined slightly after continued growth for decades. In 2014, there were an estimated 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants residing in the United States. This population reached a high of 12.2 million in 2007 but saw a gradual decline during the Great Recession
  • The majority of unauthorized immigrants are long-term residents of the United States. In 2014, the median length of residence for unauthorized immigrants in the United States was 13.6 years
  • Many unauthorized immigrants are eligible for a green card but cannot adjust their status from within the country and face lengthy bars to re-entry if they leave. 3 million unauthorized immigrants could qualify for a green card by virtue of having a close relative who is a U.S. citizen, but they are unable to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident from within the country because they have never been admitted or paroled into the country.
  • Unauthorized immigrants are often part of the same family as authorized immigrants and native-born Americans. There are 7 million people living in mixed-status families—those with at least one unauthorized immigrant—including 9.6 million adults and 5.9 million children who are U.S. citizens.40
  • Unauthorized immigrants are overrepresented in the labor force relative to the size of the overall population. In 2015, 7 million unauthorized immigrants worked in the United States. They represented 4.9 percent of the U.S. labor force, although they comprised only 3.5 percent of the U.S. population.41

Refugee resettlement

  • Across the globe, a record number of people are being forced from their homes. The number of forcibly displaced individuals worldwide has increased from 33.9 million in 2010 to 65.3 million in 2015. Of these, 21.3 million are United Nations-recognized refugees; 37.5 million are internally displaced within their home countries; and 3.7 million are stateless.169
  • Refugees come from all over the world. In 2015, 4.9 million Syrian refugees resided in 120 countries, making Syria the largest source country of refugees worldwide. Afghanistan was second at 2.7 million, Somalia third at 1.1 million, South Sudan fourth at 779,000, and Sudan fifth at 629,000. Large numbers of refugees also originated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Myanmar, Eritrea, and Colombia.170
  • Muslim refugee admissions have been trending upward, but non-Muslims still make up the bulk of refugees. In FY 2016, the United States admitted 38,901 Muslim refugees, the majority of whom were from Syria and Somalia. These refugees constituted 46 percent of all those admitted. Over the past 15 years, Muslims made up 32 percent of all refugees admitted while Christians made up 46 percent.176
  • Syrian immigrants are excelling socially and economically in the United States and are well-positioned to help Syrian refugees get on their feet. Resettlement agencies are placing Syrian refugees in communities with established Syrian communities to facilitate their integration. The median annual wage of Syrian immigrants who arrived prior to 2014 is $52,000—$7,000 higher than that of U.S.-born individuals. Twenty-seven percent of Syrian immigrant men possess an advanced degree, compared with 11 percent of U.S.-born men. Further, 11 percent of Syrian immigrants are business owners, compared with 3 percent of the U.S.-born population.183

Women and children are fleeing violence in Central America

  • Tens of thousands of children and families from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador have fled violence in their countries and come to the United States. In FY 2016, nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children and nearly 78,000 people who crossed as families—generally, mothers with young children—were apprehended at the U.S. southern border, mostly from Central America.184 A
  • Central America’s Northern Triangle—comprised of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—is racked by organized crime, gang violence, and poverty. At 108.5 murders per 100,000 people in 2015, El Salvador’s homicide rate was 24 times higher than that of the United States. Its murder rate has nearly doubled since 2012, when a truce between two of the country’s main gangs dissolved. Honduras’ homicide rate is almost 14 times that of the United States, and Guatemala’s is more than six times higher. Residents of these three countries pay an estimated $651 million annually to criminal groups, who threaten them with violence should they fail to pay.188
  • Homicide rates against women are high, and perpetrators are seldom convicted. The 2015 female homicide rate reached 14.4 per 100,000 residents in El Salvador, 10.9 per 100,000 residents in Honduras, and 9.1 per 100,000 residents in Guatemala.189 By comparison, the U.S. female homicide rate was only 1.9 per 100,000 residents. Perpetrators seldom face charges: In Guatemala, the conviction rate is 1 percent to 2 percent.190
  • Women and children face violence if they return to their home countries. In 2015, the UNHCR interviewed more than 160 women who had recently arrived in the United States from Central America. Sixty-four percent of women interviewed reported that they fled their homelands due to direct threats or experiences of violence. These women recounted that criminal groups could track them anywhere in their homelands, necessitating that they seek refuge abroad and collusion between armed groups and law enforcement. These findings were similar to those of a 2014 study of Central American children in the United States, in which 58 percent of respondents interviewed claimed that they could face danger if their asylum claims were denied.192