Opinion: Giving Thanks, A Privileged Immigrant’s Perspective

If you’re enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends, that in itself is something to be thankful for.  There are many people who won’t be spending the day that way.  Some of them will be working, providing service to people getting the forgotten “must-haves” for their Thanksgiving dinner.  There are children who will be spending their first Thanksgiving in cages and separated from their families.  And yes, it follows there are parents who are spending their first Thanksgiving in a jail cell fearing for where their children are.

I’ll be spending this Thanksgiving with my husband, thankful that the immigration process worked the way it should for everyone.

I will forever be thankful for my husband, the wonderful friends who are like family, including the co-publishers of PoliticusUSA, because they, like the people who processed my green card renewal, represent the very best this country has to offer.

They have a generosity of spirit that is unmatched.  They showed me an America that isn’t like that horror story that too many people experience.  The irony is the people for whom Trump has nothing but contempt are the true spirit of this country, which has always been about providing a safe haven for people who need it.

To me, the amazing immigrant is the one who still comes to this country knowing what Trump will dish out, but perhaps holding out hope that someday we’ll remember who we were.

But rekindling this memory of who we are won’t happen by merely wishing it.  It means starting from scratch.  It means engaging in the political process at all levels, participating in all elections and understanding how everything connects.  It means urging Americans to remember that the Senate confirms Supreme Court Justices who will decide on everything from whether kids will have to pray after their shooter survival drills, to if women will continue to control our own bodies, to whether we are all in fact equal and if we will have to fight to have the rule of law we took for granted for nearly 300 hundred years.

It means separating truth from aspiration.  We may want for everyone to be treated equally, but that’s a goal – not a fact. Still, I’m thankful for the many Americans who aspire to achieve equality.  Equality of opportunity.  Equal pay for equal work.  Equality under the law.  Equality within the criminal justice system, in education, in housing and in immigration.

As I enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with my husband, I’m going to be thankful for the people who are grossly underpaid, to the point of slavery, for doing the backbreaking work that makes our produce affordable, yet they remain thankful for the opportunity to live in a country they believe is capable of better than what they left.

I’m also going to keep writing and fighting for the thing they came here for:  to earn their way to legal status and to realize America the dream, instead of America the nightmare.  It’s because I’m thankful for having been treated well, and because I know we can do and be better than we are for the sake of people who come from all over the world for reasons as diverse as they are.

Every person who chooses America, for whatever reason, does so leaving behind a life, a family, friends, connections, knowledge about how the “system” worked and the general acceptance of their fellow citizens to become an immigrant in a country comprised of two halves.  One half is the dream, where people accept and welcome you as if you were a member of their family.  It’s a place where you get a chance to prove your character and your abilities.  Your involvement with government is civil and with the understanding of mutual cooperation.

The other half is a place where the people resent anyone new just because they are new.  They’ve been told horror stories about the how the new people want to take their jobs, their belongings, their lives and their dignity.  The new people’s encounters with government reflect the community.  Unlike my experience, they are assumed to be “bad hombres”.  They are put in cages, living in subhuman conditions and have no way of making contact with people on the outside – including those who have the legal expertise to guide them through the complex and broken process that is the immigration system for most immigrants.

It would be great if we could just say to immigrants go to the America that welcomes and accepts you.  But it isn’t always that simple when you’re running for your life.

The child who arrives traumatized after seeing violence in the country they fled has the promise of an Einstein Visa.  That sort of visa is about big ideas and big accomplishments.  Unlike what Trump believes, it is not meant for people with big “kidneys”.

That child could be tomorrow’s war hero, the person who finds a cure for cancer or develops the economic theory that actually can eliminate poverty.

I’ll be thankful for that child, the hope they offer us, and the generosity that is in the America that was great before Donald Trump tried to break it.

Then after that day of Thanksgiving, I’ll happily go back to writing about the consequences of Trump’s hate speech and more hateful policies for children and adults who will forever be infinitely thankful to have a chance that many of us take for granted.

The greatest thing about Thanksgiving is it provides us a chance to realize how much we have, and how much more we can give.