As we gather to sit down at holiday tables tomorrow, here is some food for thought from our partners at at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC):
In 1620, a group of refugees left Southampton, England for Plymouth, Massachusetts seeking religious freedom. These refugees are of course who we refer to today as Pilgrims. On Thursday, we commemorate the “First Thanksgiving” between the Pilgrims and a group of Native Americans. Millions of Americans will sit around dinner tables across the country feasting on turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Many will even go around the table saying what they are thankful for in 2009. Refugees are especially thankful for the opportunity to embrace American values such as freedom and to be safe from harm, which many of them were not able to do in their countries of origin.
However, with the current economic climate, this holiday season there will be people who are unable to fill their plates with hearty Thanksgiving meals. Immigrants and particularly refugees have been especially hit hard by the recession.
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are currently 348,776 refugees and asylum seekers living in the U.S. In fiscal year 2009, the U.S. admitted 74,652 refugees including 18,833 Iraqi refugees. As the Iraq war continues, the U.S. has pledged to take in a “substantial” number of refugees, pushing these numbers even higher.
While there are many agencies that assist in resettling refugees the economic downturn has taken a toll on charitable giving, and they are not able to accommodate the increased need for services. Additionally, the economy has left scores of refugees unemployed, homeless, and hungry. They are faced with repaying loans from companies that were contracted by the U.S. to assist in resettling them.
So, as you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner this week, remember to thank God for all of the blessings bestowed upon you and say a prayer for those who are less fortunate this holiday season.