National Immigration Forum

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Please Pass the Gravy (and DREAM Act and AgJOBS)

November 24, 2010 - Posted by Shuya Ohno

Thanksgiving can mean many different things to different people, but at the core of our American tradition, Thanksgiving roots us in a sense of history, family, fellowship and the sharing of a collective bounty. No matter our differences or ideologies, we come together for this distinctly American holiday that commemorates an event that existed prior to our formation as a nation and which symbolizes our ability to put aside differences for the sake of the common good. The enduring tradition of Thanksgiving is in fact, one of our earliest examples of bipartisanship.

This year, Thanksgiving comes in a post-election landscape that has many of our most visible political leaders entrenched in deeply partisan stances. It comes at a time of continued economic hardship and a recession that we have yet to fully recover from; it comes at a time when everyone seems to be asking, “what’s in it for me” and “is there enough to go around?” This year, Thanksgiving also comes at a time when our Members of Congress have again left the work of comprehensive immigration reform undone and a solution, to the brokenness of our system and families who have been torn apart, seems like a far-off dream. But in reality, the dream is closer than we think.


This year marks the tenth Thanksgiving in which Congress has failed to pass the DREAM Act or AgJOBS, two bills that celebrate many of the things for which Americans are thankful. Every table in this nation will likely give thanks for the food that has been purchased, prepared and shared at tomorrow’s meal; yet how many will thank the estimated 75% of undocumented workers who were responsible for harvesting that food? Many tables will also give thanks for the men and women serving in our Armed Forces at home and abroad; yet how many will thank the 35,000 legal immigrants serving in those forces, or the 8,000 legal immigrants that enlist every year? We tend to see only what is in front of us, not what is missing. We see the turkey, the mashed potatoes, and the pumpkin pie, but not the undocumented farmworker faces that made them possible. We see our uniformed officers and infantry on the front lines, but not the undocumented future enlistees who are prevented from serving us.


This Thanksgiving is an opportunity for our elected leaders to reflect upon America’s collective educational and economic bounty of undocumented youth and farmworkers and how they should be allowed to fully contribute to our strength and security as a nation. Our Members of Congress need to sit down at the table, put aside their differences and work together to enact these two common-sense measures for the good of all Americans. This is one Thanksgiving that shouldn’t leave the DREAM Act and AgJOBS as leftovers for another next Congress.

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