Thanksgiving Day is a uniquely American holiday. On the few occasions I found myself outside the United States, I felt disconnected. As grand as the hotel buffets were and as spectacularly as they were presented, Thanksgiving away from home isn’t Thanksgiving. Turkey and the Macy’s Parade on Thursday, turkey hash on Friday, Turkey pot pie on Saturday, and Chinese food on Sunday, all in the company of family and friends – that’s Thanksgiving, and that’s why 51 million people will travel this weekend to be with their loved ones.
Thanksgiving is also a time for reflection among American proponents of lower immigration who are often falsely accused of lacking compassion.
On Thanksgiving, lower immigration advocates wonder how the 49 million Americans including 13 million kids who cope with food insecurity will spend their holiday. They’ll be dependent on strangers’ kindness, not gathered around the family table. Homelessness and poverty in America are at or near record highs. The homeless crisis is more acute than most realize. About 14 percent of community college students are homeless; in Los Angeles, the total reaches 20 percent. More than 28 million nonelderly have no insurance. Many of the homeless are employed, but work at minimum wage jobs.
The U.S. is a generous nation, always willing to help in times of global crisis, and with a high volunteer rate at home. According to Giving USA, in 2016, American individuals, estates, foundations and corporations contributed an estimated $390.05 billion to U.S. charities. Individuals’ donations increased 4 percent. On foreign economic aid, the U.S. spend nearly $50 billion in 2015, according to the Congressional Research Service.
If there’s one thing Americans are, it’s generous and compassionate including in their willingness to invite more than one million immigrants annually. But if charity begins at home, as the proverb goes, then Americans’ first objective should be to help the millions of their fellow countrymen’s hungry get fed, the homeless find shelter, the uninsured get medical coverage, and unemployed find jobs.
Lower immigration advocates’ aim is to take care of their needy neighbors first. Once that goal is reached or at least approached, immigration at the traditional 250,000 annual legal admissions is welcome.