Thanksgiving is a holiday that all immigrants, both legal and undocumented, should embrace as their own custom.
This suggestion will doubtless stick in the craw of the nativist element within our nation; the MAGA enthusiasts who finger thrust at the “scourge” of undocumented immigrants living among us; especially those who are taking crucial jobs away from natural-born Americans; those choice vocations found in the valet kiosks, sun-scorched fields and rank janitorial closets all across the country.
The prevailing discussions and imagery that Thanksgiving summons each year remind us of the Pilgrims who unwittingly initiated the tradition in 1621. The only recollection worth noting, however, is that this nation’s spiritual ancestors — the Puritans of Plymouth, England — arrived at this continent uninvited and without papers.
Somehow not a single self-proclaimed patriot has any use for this truth. Thanksgiving is a legacy that undocumented immigrants inherit by the mere fact of arriving and surviving in this country.
[T]he Puritans of Plymouth, England — arrived at this continent uninvited and without papers.
Here’s the twisted irony: through Thanksgiving we celebrate the good fortune we enjoy as families and as a nation, but shun the challenge of benevolence toward the stranger — especially the immigrant — within our own communities.
Without the constant influx of immigrants, born-citizens would easily lull themselves into the conviction that they are entitled by inheritance, to the good life they are supposed to be thankful for on the fourth Thursday of November each year.
Immigrants are a vital reminder of the born citizen’s legacy in this nation — a descendent of strangers who were willing to hazard immense risk to leave their countries and cast their lot with our nation. Without a contemporary immigrant community, born citizens would be excused to view the reality of living in the US as a blessing they are entitled to.
It should be considered a national shame how anti-immigrant antipathy has characterized a meaningful amount of the political discourse over immigration reform. The vitriol betrays an arrogance on the part of nativists — Thanksgiving be damned.
If this is truly the season of gratitude, then the perfect opportunity has arrived for us to acknowledge a very meaningful contribution undocumented immigrants have made and continue to do so: funding the Social Security and Medicare systems to the tune of about $16 billion (a figure estimated for the fiscal year 2016).
The Social Security Administration’s chief actuary estimated that three years prior to that, the undocumented immigrant workforce had contributed $12 billion to Social Security alone.
How does it work out that immigrants without the proper papers legitimizing their living and working in the United States — contribute to this nation’s tattered and gap-ridden social safety net? The answer is Social Security identification numbers; fake or stolen, makes little difference.
By providing an employer such a number, the undocumented worker qualifies as a taxpayer to contribute payroll-related levies like Social Security, Medicare and whatever state and local-level taxes apply.
Now seems as good a time as any to mention that by year 2034, the Social Security fund is projected to arrive at insolvency. It is not hard to image that without that extra $12 or $13 billion per year feathering our national nest, how much closer to entitlement meltdown we would be.
There is a particular detail about this story that should give one pause for thought: no undocumented contributor to the Social Security and Medicare funds will never see a single red cent in benefits.
This fact is a fly in the ointment of nativist suspicion that immigrants are parasites on the nation’s dwindling safety net. Not only are they taking, but they contribute absolutely nothing to this republic.
We now know that accusation is complete utter… bourgeois.
With or without papers, Immigrants embracing Thanksgiving as their own tradition, serve as a living emblem of foreigners in past generations, as well as the ‘original’ outsiders like the Pilgrims.
Our culture enjoys the blessing of constant renewal because they’ve chosen our nation as their destination for their dreams and ideas. Even more crucial is that we benefit from a living illustration of our collective immigrant past.
This post was previously published on Medium.com.
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