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How Immigrants Observe Thanksgiving – An American Celebration of Immigration?

How Immigrants Observe Thanksgiving – An American Celebration of Immigration?

Magazine, The Immigrant Experience

Once upon a time, a group of refugees while escaping hostile environments at home headed west over the Atlantic Ocean with the hopes to find better life opportunities somewhere else. They reached America at a large piece of rock after going through a tough journey. 

Upon their arrival, the new land welcomed them with hunger and inadequate shelter along with other challenges. However, some Americans took pity on these poor refugees. They shared their land with them and helped them settle there. 

When these immigrants gained a foothold on the new land, they hosted that group of Americans for a large feast. This act of goodwill and diplomacy first gestured by immigrants has since become celebrated in the most quintessential American tradition, Thanksgiving.

The origins of the holiday prove that America is truly a nation of immigrants, where immigrants influence cultural, socio-economic, political, and other domains of human life. Thanksgiving celebrations that have been observed by Americans for years negate the argument that America is losing its sense of tradition to diversity. 

However, the situation has changed in recent years. The immigrants are bound to celebrate Thanksgiving without their loved ones around them. They have no grandparents, cousins, and aunts nearby, no family gathering after dinner to talk and cheer.

The holiday means a lot to newcomers, including the refugees. Yet the welcoming attitude of America has changed. A recent example of this is the maltreatment meted out to the Haitian migrants and refugees at the border. 

The case with millions of immigrants living in the U.S. is not so different. Fears of deportation and lay-offs from work continuously haunt them. “We live every moment in constant fear of leaving the U.S. It’s not easy for asylum seekers to live here. They celebrate but with their minds full of thoughts about leaving everything again. I like Thanksgiving but the fears don’t allow me to celebrate it with the same joy native Americans celebrate it,” states Sardar Nasir, a Pakistani asylum seeker. 

Recently issued Biden’s spending plan is a ray of hope for undocumented immigrants. The bill includes a provision that would give undocumented migrants parole – a temporary status that would shield illegal immigrants from deportation and give them US work and travel permits for five years. But the bill is silent about granting undocumented people a pathway to citizenship. 

They are counting on Biden to fulfill his election promise of reforming the immigration policy. “We’re looking for citizenship. Parole provides temporary relief, not a permanent solution. We want permanent protection, not a temporary shield that will be gone in 10 years,” said an undocumented migrant working at a restaurant. 

How Immigrants Observe Thanksgiving – An American Celebration of Immigration? We can still feel the aroma of Thanksgiving food present in the streets. However, we failed to feel the grief, fear, and uncertainty faced by foreign people, who were at some point in the past, warmly welcomed by our ancestors, and assisted well until they gained a foothold on this land. 

We have to remember the historical gravitas of the Thanksgiving meal, and following the footprints of indigenous Americans, have to welcome new arrivals and share our home with them to grow and flourish together. That’s what Thanksgiving teaches us. 

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