The national conversation is focused on immigration reform. Couple that with the significant demographic shift we have experienced in Nebraska and elsewhere, and it seems like a great time to talk about the value of inclusion in our towns.
With an influx of New Americans, we have a real opportunity to embrace not only the changes that new folks create, but also the knowledge that an inclusive community is stronger economically and socially. An inclusive community tends to attract new people to your town. Research shows one of the reasons youth leave and don’t return is a lack of diversity.
So many folks tell me their grandparents were immigrants. My grandparents were farmers who wanted to make a better life here. My grandfather was foreign born, and while he spoke some English, he was never comfortable with the language. He didn’t speak English very often. But people knew of his kindness, generosity, and that he was a very good farmer. He raised a large family, loved them dearly, went to church, and contributed to the community.
That’s no different from immigrants today. If you look around you will see strong people with strong family values and commitment to family. You will see people who work hard, start new small businesses, go to church, bring a fresh perspective and new ideas, and are trying to make a better life for their children.
If you look a little harder you will learn their stories and hear immigrant youth say they plan on going to college to start a career that will help their community when they go back to live and raise a family. These young folks want to and plan to return to their community.
The economic contribution made by New Americans is significant. A University of Nebraska Omaha study found immigrant spending in Nebraska resulted in $1.6 billion of production to our economy, generating approximately 12,448 jobs. Take immigrant employment away, and state production would fall by $13.5 billion, or about 78,071 jobs.
So, what’s the point to inclusion? A stronger community economically and socially. Diversity of thought and experiences, innovative ideas, new small businesses, full schools, youth who want to return and contribute to their community, and great new neighbors!
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