Thanksgiving Reminds Us Why We Need Immigration Reform

Thanksgiving should remind us that the Pilgrims too were once foreigners in this land.

This Oct. 21, 2013 photo shows a "back to basics" turkey in Concord, N.H. The recipe is so basic, it calls for just four ingredients.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Holidays often cause me to reflect to when I was a child. I grew up in a town outside of Boston; about 20 minutes from Plymouth, Mass. I loved field trips there ā€“ to visit the Mayflower, see the little reconstructed houses the Pilgrims lived in and getting a little piece of Plymouth rock in glass to give my parents as a paperweight. (Note: I have far too many of these and perhaps why that rock's so darn small now!)

As a child, history wasn't always accurately presented when it came to what really happened between the Pilgrims, the white man; and the Native Americans, then called Indians. One thing that was accurate however, was the information we learned about the first Thanksgiving. White, puritanical Pilgrims sat alongside the brown-skinned Native Americans. Their cultures, birthplaces, religions, languages and food were different from one another, but they shared a love for this land.

[See a collection of political cartoons on immigration.]

This afternoon I was listening to a program on the radio where a group of pastors in Southern California who each have their own church and each rent space in the same building had all of their congregations sit together for a Thanksgiving meal. They were of different colors, backgrounds, religions, cultures and ethnicties; some born here, some elsewhere. Their foods were different and some of their practices, but they all believed in God and the practice of Christianity. I was touched by one of the pastors who commented that in doing this, all congregations learned so much about other cultures and other people that ā€if this is what Immigration Reform is about, then sign me up.ā€

I already signed up as a supporter of reforming our current immigration process by providing a pathway to citizenship for our 11.7 million undocumented workers. I believe that these people might be born elsewhere, have a different culture, ethnicity, language, religion, food or practice, but our common bond is our love for this country and for what it represents.

I was blessed to have been born here. Those people chose to come here. And although I do not agree with breaking the law, how many of us would have done the same? How many of you would cross a border illegally to find work to put a roof over your family's head? To put food in your child's mouth? I would.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

And are these people the only ones to blame? Aren't the United States government and all the politicians to blame for allowing them to come here and to stay for so long? Aren't the companies that dangled the carrot of a job to blame for drawing them here? And what about our messaging? Pictures of Lady Liberty in the harbor, yet waiting lists of decades to enter? You can't keep telling people your streets are paved with gold, that you're the land of opportunity, the home of the free and the brave, the strongest, the best, etc. and not expect people to want to partake! Isn't it like putting a cookie jar in front of a child and telling them of the sweetness that lies within!?

A new poll shows that 63 percent of Americans support providing a pathway to citizenship for these people. And those people come from different races, religions, backgrounds and even political parties. Isn't it time we make immigration reform a priority?

As so many of us journey to be with our families this Thanksgiving, I hope that you will reflect not just on your childhood, but on what we could do for so many children out there; so that someday, when they reflect back they can remember the day they became a citizen of this great nation and be thankful for that.

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