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This Thanksgiving, A Reminder of the Contributions of Immigrants

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As the nation readies for Thanksgiving celebrations, it’s a good time to remember the contributions made to the Thanksgiving meal by immigrants, particularly undocumented workers. Their work provides the food for your family.  Unfortunately, many elected officials, including the President-elect, his Attorney General designee, Jeff Sessions, and administration job-seekers like Kris Kobach, obfuscate and deny the important contributions to the nation’s economy by undocumented workers.

In fact, Alabama, home state of Sessions, offers a window into the failed policies promoted by hardline anti-immigrant advocates like Kobach, and a dark glimpse into the future Trump Administration. In 2011, the state passed HB 56, a harsh law written by Kobach, that, like so many of his other efforts, was later found unconstitutional. However, before the law was struck down, it wreaked havoc on Alabama’s agricultural industry. In October of 2011, The Guardian reported, “Alabama immigration: crops rot as workers vanish to avoid crackdown”:

“Brian Cash can put a figure to the cost of Alabama’s new immigration law: at least $100,000. That’s the value of the tomatoes he has personally ripening out in his fields and that are going unpicked because his Hispanic workforce vanished literally overnight.”

Last year at this time, Esther Yu Hsi Lee wrote a post at ThinkProgress titled, “There are immigrants at your Thanksgiving dinner table. You just may not realize it”, which has even more resonance this year:

On Thursday, many Americans will sit down with their families around tables brimming with a splendid cornucopia of food. There could be too much turkey, beef, or some stuffed abomination that incorporates several different kinds of animals. There could also be side dishes like green bean casserole and mashed potatoes. And to top it off, there might be warm berry pie with a dollop of ice cream.

But families enjoying a meal together may not realize that there are immigrants at their dinner table.

Although immigrants may not be physical guests, they are present in the contribution that they made in getting those dishes to the table. The National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) estimates that about 48 percent of agricultural workers are unauthorized immigrants. Other farmworkers could be on seasonable agricultural visas known as H-2A or H-2B visas. Meanwhile, about 38 percent of meat-processing and slaughterhouse workers are born outside the U.S.

Particularly with the anti-immigrant rhetoric stemming from the controversy over Syrian refugees and the candidates in the 2016 presidential election, it’s important to note that many of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes wouldn’t be made possible without the contributions from immigrants.”

Lee then outlines the contributions made by immigrants to the meal of turkey, beef, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, berry pie and ice cream.

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, said, “When you give thanks this Thursday, be sure to include those who, through their hard and often back-breaking work, helped make the meal possible. And, then, be ready to fight for them next year.”