Today’s “In the News” post is an interesting one. I regularly point to recent news articles dealing with immigration in North America, especially as it pertains to cities. In the past, I have showcased articles concerning major US cities with pro-immigration policies. Many cities are actually trying to attract immigration because, contrary to prevailing rhetoric, they strengthen local economies. St. Louis won the award for most foreign-born growth this year, and a number of other cities are working hard to get their share of foreign-born residents.
However, today I ran across an article that points to this trend spreading to not-so-urban corners of the country. New England is working hard to attract immigrants to meet the needs of population decline. “Our states have the six lowest birth rates in the country. Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont have the oldest populations in the country.” writes Emily Corwin in a New Hampshire Public Radio article called, “New England Business Leaders Say Immigration Can Stem Workforce Shortages.”
Urbanization is a trend that is changing the way regions or our country operate. Cities are becoming mega cities, and metropolitan areas hold increasing gravity over their rural counterparts. Furthermore, some areas (not all) are suffering from net population loss. I know of cities that no longer exist in Tennessee, because they lost their younger generations to urbanization. In the face of dwindling numbers, these areas must replenish their workforce somehow, and the chief idea for many is to welcome immigrants.
“Maine desperately needs immigrants, immigrants of all shapes, sizes, ages, colors and points of origin,” writes Charles Lawton in the Portland Press Herald. In fact, the Maine Chamber of Commerce recently published a 24-page booklet asking immigrants and refugees to move to Maine. The tone of the piece is urgent and even somewhat apologetic for Maine’s lack of diversity and desire to become less white.
Increasingly, areas of economic drought are turning to immigration as the solution. This is no longer simply true of larger urban areas that have known about the trend for years. Immigration is working its way into the fabric of even rural areas in the US. While it would be irresponsible to claim that what happens in New England will necessarily happen in all of America’s rural settings, this is most likely indicative of changes that are occurring across the country in certain places.
Of course, my goal here is not to argue for or against policies like the one by the Maine Chamber. Instead, I simply want North American churches to be informed, to know about these demographic shifts, to see the increase in plurality around them, and to be equipped to meet the Great Commission responsibility in front of them. I regularly have conversations with suburban and rural pastors and churches who think immigration is a “big city thing.” In reality, the suburbs are diversifying rapidly, and even some rural areas are seeing the need to attract a new population. Things are a changing, and we must keep our eyes on the simple fact that is it God who “determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live” (Acts 17:26).
Now let’s go and make some disciples.