The Long History of Botched Mass Deportations

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tags: election 2016, immigration, Trump, Mass Deportation



Candida Moss is professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame and an award-winning author of five books, including Ancient Christian Martyrdom: Diverse Practices, Theologies, and Traditions and The Other Christs: Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom. She is also a frequent news commentator for CBS and CNN. Follow her on Twitter @candidamoss.

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The most notorious part of Donald Trump’s campaign platform during the Republican primary was his promise to deport eleven million illegal immigrants from the United States. It’s a bold and alarming policy, but he’s not the first to use forced migration as political strategy. From forcing others into exile or foreign labor, displacing large groups during warfare, taking prisoners of war, or even enslaving others, forced migration has taken a number of shapes and forms in the past. While the only constant here is the devastating impact it has on the lives of those involved, it doesn’t always turn out well for the oppressors either.

In the sixth century BCE the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar swept through the kingdom of Judah and besieged the city of Jerusalem. After the city fell in 597 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar took the pro-Babylonian King Jehoiakim, his family, and aristocrats from the royal court to Babylon. There they remained for two generations until the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great sent the people back to the land of Israel.  The trauma that surrounds the Babylonian Captivity is felt throughout the pages of the Hebrew Bible. A mere generation later the Persians would conquer Babylon and send the exiles home. For his role in this, the book of Isaiah names Cyrus the Great the messiah. 

If the Babylonian exile was about a foreign force moving the Israelites to their capital city, there were a number of other foreign powers (the Romans, the Spanish, almost every Western European country) that wanted to expel Jews from within their borders. In 1290, King Edward I issued the Edict of Expulsion, a legal measure that forced Jews – around 2,000 in all – out of England. In many ways the Edict was the culmination of two centuries of rising anti-Jewish sentiment, sentiments that included myths of blood-libel, accusations of extortion, rising taxation, and the requirement that Jews wear an identifying mark. 

At least one motivation for the expulsion was Edward I’s dire financial situation.  At the beginning of his reforms, when he expelled Jews from Gascony and English territory, he seized ownership of their property and transferred outstanding debts to the crown. He then used the promise of deportation as a means of galvanizing support for higher taxation. Whatever the precise impetus for the edict, Jews were formally banned from England until 1657. 

In pop consciousness Spanish Catholics are notorious for their intolerance of dissenting religious groups. Every viewer of Monty Python knows that heretics can expect to face the inquisition. Whether reports of Spanish intolerance are exaggerated or not, in 1609 King Philip III of Spain ordered the expulsion of the Moriscos, (a perjorative term meaning “little-moor”), descendants of Spain’s Muslim population.  Only a century before, the Spanish Archbishop Cisneros had forcibly converted the Muslim population to Catholicism, but popular sentiment feared that the Moriscos continued to be engaged in subversive crypto-Islamic rituals. Scholars debate how extensive and effective the expulsion actually was, but as many as 300,000 people were deported to North Africa and France. ...




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