Immigrant farm, food and commercial workers gathered in Lafayette Square across from the White House the week before Thanksgiving Day to remind their fellow Americans of the flesh-and-blood human beings who are behind the great bounty of food all of us share on this celebrated holiday. They also called on President Obama to honor their hard work and sacrifice that sustains this country's economy by taking executive action to deliver the most inclusive changes possible to our long-broken immigration system.
Immigrant workers who are members of the United Farm Workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers presented a sampling of Thanksgiving Day foods that they harvest and process. They included Juan Pacheco and Maria Pacheco, turkey-processing workers from Pennsylvania; Maria Arteaga, a farm worker, and her U.S.-citizen daughter, Areli, from the corn and potato fields of Idaho; peach worker Alberto Bermejo and celery worker Inocencio Bernal Pedroza from California; and Washington state grape worker Maria G. Lozano Ramirez and pumpkin worker Maria Martha Acevedo Cardenas, and Maria's daughter, U.S. citizen Eustalia A. Acevedo.
The workers delivered more than 100 letters from immigrants to the White House explaining why administrative relief is so important to their families and communities. Many of the letters invited the president to share a Thanksgiving meal with farm workers in their homes.
As American families sit down to dinner on this day of Thanksgiving, these workers ask their countrymen and -women not to forget the people behind the meal that makes the holiday possible. These workers' blood, sweat and tears go into creating America's food supply. But instead of sharing in the bounty they themselves produce, too often immigrant workers are forced to live in the shadows, constantly in fear. Their wages are frequently undercut. They are subjected to other abuses and miserable conditions at work. They endure the constant threat of being separated from the families and country they love.
On this day during which American families pause to give thanks, isn't it time we gave thanks to our Thanksgiving workers?
That's why these workers urged President Obama to use his existing legal authority to recognize the dignity and humanity of the people who make this beloved holiday a reality. Six other U.S. presidents since Franklin Roosevelt have used powers granted to the executive branch to make immigration policy changes for agricultural workers.
President Obama faces no other alternative in the wake of continuing obstruction and inaction on immigration reform from congressional Republicans. The U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill in June 2013. The U.S. House of Representatives would have also passed it -- since most Democrats and some Republicans would vote for it -- if House GOP leaders only allowed a vote on it. They still refuse.
The immigrant farm and other food workers outside the White House asked the president to join their families at the Thanksgiving Day table this year -- in the hope that Mr. Obama will make good on his promise and be the leader they so desperately need.
These workers' future and the future of this country's agricultural industry and other key sectors of the American economy depend on the president acting.
To follow events thanking Thanksgiving farm workers, visit http://www.ufw.org/tg14.