This Thanksgiving, Make Room for Everyone at the Table

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The election is over, ballots have been counted, and the results are in: This Thanksgiving, families may see a far bigger divide than who prefers dark meat over light meat. While Thanksgiving is meant to be a time to gather for a feast with your loved ones and even welcome new guests to the table, the sad truth is that many people may be crossing guests off their invitation list this year.  

America is a nation of immigrants, and what holiday says this more than Thanksgiving, an “immigrant’s holiday, blending old and new traditions.” In 2014, President Obama addressed an audience of new U.S. citizens at the White House on this issue:

America is, and always has been, a nation of immigrants. Throughout our history immigrants have come to our shores in wave after wave from every corner of the globe,” he said. “Every one of us, unless we are Native American, has an ancestor who was born somewhere else.

 

President Obama’s point was that if there isn’t room for anything at the table, its intolerance of the “other.” We are all the “other.”

This election cycle was particularly difficult for the American public, especially on the topic of immigration reform. The polls show our country is more split than many thought, exposing deep rooted divisions. Since the Presidential election a mere two weeks ago, the country has witnessed violent protests and demonstrations, acts of vandalism, hate crimes, and public outcries of sadness and despair. Above all, the results have invoked fear, notably among refugees and immigrant

For others who find themselves without a space at another’s table, they will find good food, company, and perhaps even some solace at holiday celebrations hosted by community institutions such as churches and resettlement institutes. For example, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) welcomed hundreds of refugees and immigrants with open arms to their 12th annual Thanksgiving luncheon on November 15, 2016 at the State House in Boston. Speaking on the behalf of Mayor Martin Walsh, Director of the Office for Immigrant Advancement Alexandra St. Guillen stated,

If you live in or around Boston, know that you are a valued member of our city and our community regardless of your place of birth, your immigration status, your faith tradition, or your appearance.

 

This past Monday, the International Institute’s Lowell office also hosted their annual “Taste of Thanksgiving” event, where over 50 refugees who are enrolled in the IINE-Lowell’s English as a Second Language (ESL) class celebrated their first Thanksgiving. Volunteers from the Resettle Together network prepared the food and joined in the feast, during which refugees described what they were most thankful for during this time. Resettle Together is a growing network of community partners assisting the International Institute of New England in creating welcoming communities for refugees and providing immediate and long-term support to individuals and families.

Refugees and immigrants in the United States have never needed help, support, and reassurance as much as they do now. For organizations like IINE and MIRA, the election results do not change our commitment and mission to provide all of the support we can to welcome new arrivals, and to assist immigrants and refugees to become productive members of our communities. We believe this nation is exceptional due to its embrace of everyone who cherishes freedom and equality. Sadly, for many new Americans their first holiday in the United States will include a post-turkey tryptophan coma, served with a steaming hot plate of bigotry.

So, as we are surrounded by fearful rhetoric we have to make a choice. We have to choose love over hate and we have to choose unity over separation.

This Thanksgiving Holiday, let’s choose make room for everyone at the table.

Photo Credit: "Thanksgiving" by Silveira Neto (CC BY-SA 2.0