Park Rapids and surrounding towns form a community of diverse nationalities, enriching our culture with traditional foods, music, languages and religions brought here through previous progressive, pragmatic immigration policies to build this great land. We realize this as we visit our social venues, like the Park Rapids American Legion, Menahga VFW Club, Nevis and Sebeka liquor stores, and enjoy the mix of the regulars and people who drop in from outside the area. If you haven’t, try them sometime. There are no strangers there.

But now we are drawing back from these established policies to become more isolated from benefits other cultures have provided while doing the hard, messy work it takes to build and sustain the economic infrastructure essential to grow our diverse economy.

Why are we afraid of diversity? Why are we afraid of “them,” who are not the same color or religion or whatever differences set “them” apart? Given the opportunity to fulfill their potential, as seen most notably in sports, entertainment and social justice, “they” excel beyond what our treasured ”whiteness” ever provided .

For more than 140 years, the statement on the Statue of Liberty is “Give us your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This is contrary to the current administration’s proposals to disallow all those in the lower-income strata in favor of importing the “top” talents in fields requiring advanced education and experience. What we really need are workers at all wage and skill levels. Someone has to do the necessary and “dirty” work. It’s not the elite and not necessarily white.

We have heard the phrase “we’re full, don’t need any more immigrants” coming from the White House. In fact, we have thousands of smaller towns and cities across this broad land needing revitalization and repopulating. We could absorb millions more immigrants and never notice if they are spread out to replenish population losses in many areas.

And yes, they will need health care and education/training, shelter, but they are anxious to work hard and pay their fair share to build a better life for themselves and families. Not a new concept, it’s just how we built this country in the first place. Slave labor, then immigrant and migrant labor.

Our cities are also overcrowded with decaying infrastructure and insufficient plans to repair and rebuild. Visionary planners would use our current and future technologies to spread our population across the land by encouraging a mobile workforce independent from the trappings of traffic-congested cities and office buildings reached by unnecessary and tiring drives at both ends of the day.

The government has a major role to play in this strategy. Mobility requires social services. like health care for all, education/training, retirement programs – all beyond the ability of the private sector to provide simply because of the risk and cost that only government can absorb. But the long-term payoff of getting it done will make the investment look piddling compared with the benefits to the common good.