This Thanksgiving, I want to give thanks for immigrants.
Not so much the early European immigrants that are the holiday’s historic roots, but the immigrants who are here today. I have to say that I don’t really understand the intensity of anti-immigrant feelings held by many Americans, particularly since most of us here (the non-indigenous ones) are descendants of immigrants.
I look at the immigrants I know, and I am glad they are here. Do people really want to get rid of, kick out, send back to their countries of origin my friends and colleagues? Do they really want to deport the attorneys I work with who came from Nigeria, South Africa and Iran? And my past and present co-workers from China, Russia, Afghanistan, Philippines, England, Turkey, France and Germany? And the parents of my daughters’ friends? They are all immigrants.
Maybe this is still too abstract. Are you telling me that you want Noel and Nicholas, Rebecca and Elizaveta, Phillipe and Cecilia to be gone? Then tell me why, and it had better be good. And don’t try to distinguish them because they are already here and you just want to keep out the ones who aren’t here yet. If that had been the policy, then my friends might not have been able to come here, and I would never have met them - and that is how you are saying you want the future to be. With the next batch of friends missing.
And don’t try to say you only want to keep out the poor and uneducated Mexicans and Guatemalans and Salvadorans, like the ones who are here now, washing our dirty dishes in our trendy restaurants, building (and cleaning) our million-dollar houses, picking our organic lettuce and tomatoes and strawberries, slaughtering our pigs and cows and chickens, and washing the asses of our parents and grandparents in their assisted living facilities. Why do you want them gone? Do you want to pick lettuce or slaughter pigs or wash elderly asses?
Besides, that argument – we don’t want the poor and dirty and uneducated – was used to keep out the Irish and the Chinese and the Eastern European Jews. I guess if you really think that letting in the Irish and Chinese and Jews was a bad idea, it would make sense to use the same logic now. But please explain to me why the US is worse off because the Irish and Chinese and Jews are here.
We benefit from people who really want to be here, and who are determined and creative. (Like the ones who figured out how to drive a 1951 Chevy pickup from Cuba to Florida.) If you think you can persuade me that immigrants are bad for the US, go ahead and try. But be aware that the immigrants I know are smart and funny and hard-working, I am descended from immigrants (including Eastern European Jews), and my daughter is an immigrant. Does that make me biased? Perhaps. But more importantly it means that this issue is real for me, not abstract or theoretical, just as it is real for all immigrants, past and future.
So to all my immigrant friends, colleagues and acquaintances: happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for being here.