By: Robert L. Reeves & Nancy E. Miller
Have you ever considered that the United States of America’s (U.S.) most famous icon is an immigrant? That’s right. The Statue of Liberty was “born” in France and brought to the U.S. by ship. The quintessential symbol of American liberty and freedom, Lady Liberty herself, is an “immigrant”.
As the late Senator Ted Kennedy said, “Immigration is the story of American History. … over the centuries, immigrants came to America from every part of the globe and made the American dream. They created a nation that is the envy of the world.” “They came to a land that offers freedom and opportunity to those willing to do their part.” And do their part, they have! Immigrants have contributed to and enriched every aspect of American life. They built our cities, our railroads and highways. They cultivated our farmlands. They fought to defend their adopted home in every branch of the U.S. military.
And, they even gave us Thanksgiving, the quintessential American holiday. The first recorded Thanksgiving ceremony took place on September 8, 1565 when 600 Spanish settlers landed in what is now St. Augustine, Florida and immediately held a Mass of Thanksgiving for their safe delivery to the New World. The Mass was followed by a feast and celebration. A Spanish expedition party rested and conducted a mass at San Elizario (near El Paso, Texas) in celebration of thanksgiving on April 30, 1598. On December 4, 1619, 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred, which is about 20 miles north of Jamestown, Virginia. The group’s charter required that the day of arrival be observed yearly as a day of thanksgiving to God.
The modern Thanksgiving holiday is associated with a 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation where the Pilgrims held a feast after a successful growing season. Sqauanto, a Native American who served as an interpreter for the English-speaking colony had taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn. The Pilgrims set aside a day to celebrate immediately after their first harvest. That Thanksgiving feast lasted for three days and provided enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Native Americans. It consisted of fowl, venison, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, squash and turkey.
Since that time, a Thanksgiving Day has been proclaimed and celebrated periodically throughout our nationhood. However, the date was not officially set as the fourth Thursday of November until 1942.
Regardless of where the immigrants came from and no matter when they arrived, they shared something in common with each other and with those who come to our shores today. They all wanted a better life for themselves and their families. They were also willing to work hard to get that better life. And, they were profoundly grateful to the country that gave them the opportunity for betterment. That is all still true.
It is also still true that the country that benefitted so much from the early immigrants continues to benefit from those who come to our shores today. Immigrants bring energy and skill that enrich the lives of those with whom they come in contact. They start businesses and create jobs. They provide wonderful examples of family devotion by the sacrifices they make to unite their families here and support their loved ones back home.
At Reeves & Associates, we understand how important these immigrant families are. We recognize how much the U.S. owes to each person who has brought unique contributions to this country. And we continue to strive to obtain justice and fairness for them. Fairness and justice is more than just not deporting contributing members of society by leaving them in limbo (although that is a start). It is granting a means of lawful status to those who devote their life and energy to make and keep this country great. It is fulfilling the promise of Lady Liberty who lifts her light of liberty beside the golden door.
Since 1947, each year for Thanksgiving the President of the United States has pardoned a live turkey to allow it to live out its days in peace. Surely a country that has compassion for its turkeys can show compassion for people. Let’s see Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2012 so that American immigrants will truly have something to be thankful for.