But outside of their Thanksgiving tables, this administration is hardly paying homage to this most fundamental part of America's origin story: We are not just a nation of immigrants, but we also were founded by a group of refugees. Instead, President Donald Trump has declared that this country is full, particularly to more refugees.
While the president’s base supports his anti-immigrant agenda, a majority of Americans strongly disagree with both his radical perspective and the draconian tactics used by his administration. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found 75 percent of respondents believed immigration was good for the country. And a new Gallup poll on attitudes about Central American refugees revealed that 57 percent of Americans — with increased approval from Republicans and independents — support taking them in and making this country their home.
As a congressman, I’m all too familiar with the president’s penchant for dog whistle rhetoric and false assertions. And I try — in an effort to stay sane — not to take any of what he says to heart. But as a Latino representing the heart of Los Angeles, his comments about refugees and immigrants in general continue to strike a personal chord.
My parents, who once lived in a one-room adobe house in Mexico, came to the United States in search of opportunity. They both worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. My mother was a domestic worker by day and a nursing home laundry attendant at night and on weekends. My father was a bracero — a farmworker — and cooked at various restaurants across Southern California. They raised six children and helped put most of us through college.
I believe in America’s promise that if you come here, believe in our values, and contribute to our society, you can call this country your home. That promise was upheld for my sister, who was granted citizenship last year. It was upheld for my other siblings, who became educators and artists. And that promise was upheld for my parents, who gave their youngest the opportunity to go to school and eventually become a member of Congress.
I intend to help keep that promise for future generations.
Clearly, policy matters, particularly when you’re the president, but the words used to promote such policy can often be just as important. The rhetoric of our leaders should remind us of our shared values — justice, tolerance and empathy — that make the U.S. a beacon of hope around the world.
Whether Trump likes it or not, refugees were here at the start of the American experiment and have inextricably woven themselves into the tapestry of this country. And, for that, I am truly thankful.
Rep. Jimmy Gomez
Rep. Jimmy Gomez represents California’s 34th Congressional District, among the most diverse and culturally rich districts in the country. He's a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee.