“We All Want to Belong”

Fears about immigration are based in our psychological fear of “the other.” Yet when we examine the core values that we live by every day, we may find that we all have more that brings us together than sets us apart.

Sara McElmurry, author of Proactive and Patient: Managing Immigration and Demographic Changes in 2 Rural Nebraska Communities, spent time in two small Nebraska towns that have experienced major demographic changes due to immigration. She found that all the residents were able to adjust to the new diversity by realizing that they have values and interests in common: family, hard work, faith and “an affinity for small-town living.” She says, “They build a mutual respect for each other’s work ethic that has helped to transcend language or cultural differences.”

“We all deeply want to belong,” says Rachel Peric, executive director of Welcoming America. She highlights the need for welcoming not only arriving immigrants but also neighbors who may initially feel uncomfortable with the changes they are seeing. “How can we do this work of lifting up immigrants in a way that actually lifts up our whole community and makes everyone feel like they belong?”

Immigration is not just about immigrants; it’s about all of us. We share a common humanity. We desire to work hard, to feel safe and to belong, and we all deserve the chance to realize this dream.

For more on finding common ground, click here to view recordings and slides from The ILC Public Education Institute’s webinar What We Have in Common: How to Talk About Immigrants.