My wife and I are relatively new to Bourbon County, and we love it here as it reminds us of the small towns in which we were reared. Our reception by Bourbon County was relatively warm compared to the cold shoulder we received for five years in a nearby SEK county. We have earnest business and faith communities here.
Bourbon County has a significant amount of practice in this regard, as we welcome hundreds of newcomers to our county every year in the form of college students. Additionally, we are a tourist destination and host many people here for short visits. These individuals come from a variety of cultural and racial backgrounds. Even as far back as the Civil War, we welcomed an African-American military unit to the fort. Hospitality is a natural part of our culture.
It is exciting to me that we have that in our social DNA because we need new people who will be productive citizens in Bourbon County. Statistics show that Kansas is far less diverse than the rest of our Great Nation, and Bourbon County is even less so. We have some room to grow in this regard.
I am not advocating for open borders. Understanding who is entering a country is a critical part of any nation’s sovereignty; however, we need to take a strong look at altering our legal immigration system to attract more workers who lack economic opportunity where they currently live. Congress should put a program together to allow a greater number of potential immigrants to fill out the proper paperwork, undergo a background check, and wait (hopefully not too long) in line. This process needs to be as efficient as possible.
I know that some do not want any foreigners in their fields of vision. Many Americans opposed the influx of Irish, Germans, Scandinavians, Asians, etc., over the years. I wonder how the Protestant-dominated counties of Crawford and Cherokee reacted when the Italian Catholics migrated to Kansas to work in the mines. All of these waves of immigrants throughout our Nation’s history assimilated and prospered. We learned to live with them, and they with us.
Why is immigration critical for rural America? We need workers. Birth rates have fallen below replacement rates, and we are losing Baby Boomers rapidly. Our high school graduates are heading to colleges or jobs in big cities. Great jobs are going unfilled in Bourbon County.
Let’s see what we can do about supporting and welcoming newcomers and immigrants to our area. Let’s help them become part of our communities, teaching them our language, sharing our way of life, and learning about theirs. Let’s ensure that Bourbon County continues to thrive and, hopefully, grow again.