Thanksgiving Thoughts on Our Immigrant Nation (2014)

On this Thanksgiving Day of 2014, we are thankful for the President's executive action on immigration and the resistance to it. It brings the debate about immigration out of the shadows where it has been since the Senate passed its immigration bill on June 27, 2013 almost one year and one-half ago.

We are thankful for those citizens who embraced democracy and participated in the mid-term elections. We are hopeful that their example and the results will motivate many more to express themselves at the electoral ballot box in 2016.

Most of all, we are thankful for those immigrants -- legal and otherwise -- who at the behest of agribusinesses toiled long hours in the fields, laboring for low wages, and doing work that most Americans would not.

These immigrants helped bring the bounty to our tables on this Thanksgiving Day. We will thank and remember them in our prayers as we bow our heads to say grace today.

We will also remember again as we did in 2013 that the United States is an immigrant nation, and celebrate the greatest gift that God has brought to these shores -- our immigrants.

With that said, here is our Thanksgiving blog from 2013.

We closed our Thanksgiving blog in 2012 with lyrics from a song, The House That I Live In, recorded by Frank Sinatra to encourage unity and tolerance during World War II and the following comments:

America, the house we live in is a more diverse one, that it was at the outset of World War II and we believe a better one for it. The family in Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving dining room painting was all white. Today that family could also be African-American, Latino, Indian American, multi-ethnic, gay, straight and we are certain that we are better off because of this as well. For that we are thankful

We also remember that on this Thanksgiving Day there are those without homes to live in whether due to natural disasters such as the Super Storm Sandy or personal circumstances. We know that because of who we are as Americans there are numerous citizens who will reach out to help them both on this day and throughout the year. That's America, the house that we live in, a nation of immigrants. That's the final reason we are thankful on this Thanksgiving Day


It struck us, given the focus on immigration throughout most of this year, that our final reason for being thankful a year ago should be our primary one in 2013.

America has always prided itself on being a nation of immigrants. The Statue of Liberty provides eloquent testimony to that with its inscription which reads, in part:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

The achievements and the contributions of immigrants to the nation's success over time are legion. Famous first generation American immigrants, to name just a few, include: Albert Einstein, physicist who came here from Germany; I.M. Pei, architect from China. Joseph Pulitzer newspaper publisher from Hungary: Felix Frankfurter, Supreme Court justice from Austria; Madeline Albright, Secretary of State from Czechoslovakia; Hakeen Olajuwon, basketball player from Nigeria; and, Saint Francis X. (Mother) Cabrini, nun from Italy.

More recently, it's been Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google who came here from Russia. And, two scientists, Elizabeth Blackburn (from Australia) and Jack Szostak (from the U.K. via Canada) who shared the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 2009 with Carol Grieder for their chromosomal research.

The list could go on and on. Add second generation immigrants to the list, it could go on almost forever. It is unquestionable that America has been the beneficiary of an unparalleled immigrant advantage in terms of intellectual and human capital. For that we are thankful

It's not just the "brain gain", as Darrell West of the Brookings Institution puts it, that immigrants have provided to the development of America and advancing the America dream. It's also been the incalculable contributions that immigrants have made in doing the back breaking work required to eke out a living, to make the economy hum and the future better for their children. For that we are thankful.

One need only visit the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and its various centers to understand the magnitude and impact of the immigration movement over time and its continuing effect today. The award winning documentary, Island of Hope, Island of Tears, depicts the stories of the millions of immigrants from around the world who passed through Ellis Island between 1890 and 1920 hoping for better lives for themselves and their descendants.

Singer songwriter Guy Clark tells one person's story emotionally and evocatively in his song, Immigrant Eyes,

Oh Ellis Island was swarming
Like a scene from a costume ball
Decked out in the colors in Europe
And on fire with the hope of it all
There my father's own father stood huddled
With the tired and hungry and scared
Turn of the century pilgrims
Bound by the dream that they shared
They were standing in lines just like cattle
Poked and prodded and shoved
Some were one desk away from sweet freedom
Some were torn from someone they love
Through this sprawling tower of babel
Came a young man confused and alone
Determined and bound for America
And carryin' everything that he owned

Sometimes when I look in my grandfather's Immigrant Eyes
I see that day reflected and I can't hold my feelings inside
I see starting with nothing and working hard all of his life
So don't take it for granted say grandfather's Immigrant Eyes

Now he rocks and stares out the window
But his eyes are still just as clear
As the day he sailed through the harbor
And come ashore on the island of tears
My grandfather's days are numbered
But I won't let his memory die
'Cause he gave me the gift of this country
And the look in his Immigrant Eyes

As we approach this Thanksgiving, we are thankful to be part of this immigrant nation. Frank Islam came here as an immigrant himself from India at the age of fifteen. Ed Crego's forebears have been here for more than three centuries. Nonetheless, with the exception of those Native Americans, we all have immigrant lineage.

So, as part of this immigrant nation, we give thanks for the gift of this country. We give thanks for the Gang of 8 who forged the way in the Senate and the full Senate that passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill on June 27. We give thanks that the Statue of Liberty officially reopened on July 4. We give thanks that Ellis Island reopened its doors - at least partially - on October 28.

We will bow our heads on and say a prayer on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, for the members of the House of Representatives in the hope that they will remember their immigrant roots and be enlightened in 2014 to see fit to make The House that We Live In a suitable and accommodating one for all those immigrants residing here and those yet to come.

These are our Thanksgiving thoughts on this immigrant nation in 2013.

They remain good thoughts for 2014.

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