DOUG ROSS: Tables have turned since first Thanksgiving dinner

2013-11-29T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: Tables have turned since first Thanksgiving dinnerBy Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

With Thanksgiving fresh on our minds, this seems the perfect time to discuss immigration and related issues.

You'll remember from those pageants in grade school that the first Thanksgiving was held after the Pilgrims survived a year in the New World. It was a harsh year, and many of the settlers died.

The ones who did survive thanked God for their lives, but they invited the natives to join them for that feast.

My, how the tables have turned since that first Thanksgiving dinner.

Now some of the descendants of immigrant want to shut the door to newcomers, not extend the same help their ancestors received.

But perhaps there's another way.

The Midwest has some of the best universities in the nation. They draw students from far beyond the Midwest.

In fact, Purdue University's main campus in West Lafayette drew 9,509 international students from 126 countries in 2012-13, according to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, co-published Nov. 11 by the U.S. State Department.

Purdue ranked second in the nation in terms of foreign students at public universities, the report said. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ranked No. 1, with 9,804 students.

With all due apologies to the leftover turkey, there's a lot of red meat in that report:

  • Indiana's 24,389 foreign students brought the state more than $775,000 in foreign spending, creating 11,122 direct and indirect jobs.
  • Of those, 756 students were at Purdue University Calumet and 492 at Valparaiso University.
  • Illinois had 39,047 foreign students, bringing nearly $1.1 billion in foreign dollars to the state and creating 5,257 direct jobs and 11,974 indirect jobs.
  • China sends almost as many students to U.S. colleges and universities than the next four leading countries combined.

Why bring Thanksgiving, immigration and foreign students into the same column? Because they were all present at that first Thanksgiving.

The reason the Native Americans were invited to that first feast is because the newly arrived immigrants would have perished without their instruction.

Now we're the natives educating the foreign newcomers at our universities. We're teaching them American ways of life.

There's a lot of yakking about immigration reform in Washington, D.C., and out here in the land beyond the Beltway.

But just for a moment, remember that first Thanksgiving and what the Americans of European descent owe to the Native Americans -- the ones who arrived first and decided to help the newcomers instead of clamoring for them to be sent back.

Now you've got another reason to be thankful on this day after the celebration of that first feast in the new land -- and food for thought, too.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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