We have an opportunity to get something spectacularly right in New Hampshire right now.
Our state is aging. Baby boomers are retiring. Sixty percent of our high school seniors who graduate and go on to four-year colleges leave to do that in other states. Recent data have shown a significant population turnover in the state. New Hampshire, to put it plainly, needs people. We need people who want to be doctors and nurses and teachers and entrepreneurs and farmers and builders and road agents and engineers. We need everyone who is here to be able to reach their potential, and we need additional folks to come to New Hampshire — and want to stay.
The great news is that we also have some newer arrivals who are putting their skills and assets and potential to work to make our communities even better and keep our economy growing.
One group doing just that is New Americans, immigrants from all over. And what we have the chance to do spectacularly right is to celebrate their arrival and make New Hampshire a place that is known for doing that, for understanding that in our growing diversity is strength and hope for a shared prosperity for the future.
The truth of this is particularly poignant in 2021, when so many immigrants are the front-line workers who have put themselves in danger during a global pandemic to care for others and keep our communities safe and provided for: Working as doctors and nurses and health aides, in grocery stores and in child-care centers.
Here is some of what immigrants are bringing to New Hampshire, according to data from the American Immigration Council:
- They are highly educated: Forty-one percent of adult immigrants in New Hampshire have a bachelor’s degree or higher (compared with 34 percent of those born in the United States).
- Immigrant entrepreneurs in New Hampshire generate tens of millions in business revenue: In 2018, immigrant business owners generated $185.4 million in business income.
- Immigrants contribute hundreds of millions in taxes: Immigrant-led households in the state paid $688.3 million in federal taxes and $195.7 million in state and local taxes in 2018.
- They bring spending power to the economy: New Hampshire residents in immigrant-led households had $2.4 billion in after-tax income in 2018.
And New Americans enrich our communities with a diversity that makes New Hampshire better for everyone. Here’s just one way: According to the National Coalition on School Diversity and the groundbreaking book “The Sum of Us,” by Heather McGhee, children — including white children — who attend diverse, high-quality K-12 schools benefit from a host of positive learning outcomes, including: sharper critical thinking and collaborative skills, higher levels of cultural competence, an increased sense of civic engagement and higher test scores in math and science than peers who attend schools largely segregated by race.
The workers at the heart of our economy, and those about to be, want New Hampshire communities to be diverse communities. According to a 2017 survey by Stay, Work, Play New Hampshire, residents age 20-40 cited “lack of diversity” as a top reason they would consider leaving New Hampshire.
New Hampshire nonprofits have done, and continue to do, great work on this front, including the Endowment for Health’s Immigrant Integration Initiative, Welcoming New Hampshire, One Greater Nashua of the Nashua United Way, the American Friends Service Committee and the recent creation of New Hampshire’s first Spanish-language news service, a partnership between the Granite State News Collaborative and New Hampshire Public Radio.
It should hardly have to be said, but it does: Other than Native Americans, every single person in New Hampshire, and in the United States, is here because they or their ancestors immigrated from somewhere else or were kidnapped and brought here from somewhere else. Every person. We are, all of us, immigrants or immigrant-descendants.
The economy and communities of this place, since European people first showed up, have always relied on immigrants. The edifices of our cities are etched with the records of past waves of arrivals who came to work in the industries New Hampshire had to offer — the Franco-American Centre and Polish-American clubs and the Orthodox domes from Manchester to Claremont to Berlin. And (let’s just face our shared history) past waves of immigrants were often not met with the welcome or kindness they had hoped to find when they set off from their home shores, desperate and determined. They were met, all too frequently, with a lack of respect and civility, and outright hostility. Too frequently, in recent years and even days, similar hostility has been visited upon New Americans in New Hampshire. Some of this hostility has been doled out by elected representatives, and directed at people who are exercising their right to testify before the legislature that represents them. That is beyond reprehensible. Some policymakers have proposed deeply problematic measures that would take us backward, including an attempt to censor learning about racism. Let’s break this pattern and reverse this right now: We have the ability to learn from the mistakes of past generations and not make them again.
In our legislation, in our policies, in our communities — from our State House to our city councils and our town halls, from our Main Streets to our classrooms — we have the chance to get this right this time. So let’s make New Hampshire a place where immigrants from all over know that they are most kindly welcome.