Tag Archives: Rural America

While rural Nebraskans have mixed opinions about the impact of immigration on rural Nebraska, those more likely to have lived alongside recent immigrants have more positive views, according to the 2019 Nebraska Rural Poll.

Overall, 38% of respondents to the Rural Poll — the largest annual poll of rural Nebraskans’ perceptions on quality of life and policy issues — agree that immigrants strengthen rural Nebraska, while 30% disagree. One-third agree that on balance immigration has been good for rural Nebraska, while 27% disagree. At least one-third of rural Nebraskans neither agreed nor disagreed with both statements.

Experience with immigrants appears to be related to perceptions of immigration, a survey official said. Persons living in or near larger communities, who are more likely to be aware of recent immigrants in their community, are more likely than those living in or near smaller communities to agree that immigrants strengthen rural Nebraska. Similarly, the poll found that persons living in both the south-central and northeast regions, which are more likely to be aware of recent immigrants in their community, are more likely than those living in other regions to agree that immigrants strengthen rural Nebraska.

Younger persons are more likely than older persons to agree that immigrants strengthen rural Nebraska. Just over half of persons 19 to 29 agree with the statement, compared to 31% of those 65 and older. Looking at immigration trends, Nebraskans 29 and younger are likely to have grown up with more foreign-born immigrants.

“Overall, there is a consistent theme from the data,” said L.J. McElravy, associate professor of youth civic leadership at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. “Respondents believe immigrants strengthen rural Nebraska when they are more likely to interact with immigrants, whether that exposure is a result of where they live or their age.”

The poll also found that rural Nebraskans have concerns about language issues and the effect illegal immigration may have on wages. Eighty-four percent of rural Nebraskans surveyed agree that immigrants should learn to speak English within a reasonable amount of time. In addition, half of respondents disagree that communities should communicate important information in other languages as well as English. And 44% agree that undocumented immigrants drive down wages in rural Nebraska, while just under one-quarter disagree.

When asked about immigration policies, most rural Nebraskans surveyed agree with policies that try to prevent illegal immigration. Almost three-quarters agree that government should tighten borders to prevent illegal immigration, and about the same proportion agrees that businesses employing undocumented workers should be penalized. Almost two-thirds agree that undocumented immigrants should be deported. A similar percentage disagree that the government is too aggressive in deporting those who are in the United States illegally.

However, many respondents also support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers. Sixty-two percent agree that an undocumented immigrant who has been working and paying taxes for five years or more should be allowed to apply for citizenship, and slightly less agree that there should be a way for undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements to stay in the country legally. Seventy percent agree that immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children should be allowed the chance to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain requirements over a period of time.

Many opinions about immigration policies remain about the same as they were in 2006, the last time immigration questions were asked in the Rural Poll. However, fewer rural Nebraskans today support the government tightening borders to prevent illegal immigration than did in 2006. Then, 83% of respondents agreed that the government should tighten borders. In 2019, this fell to 74%. And, the proportion who agree that an undocumented immigrant who has been working and paying taxes for five years or more should be allowed to apply for citizenship increased slightly, from 58% in 2006 to 62% this year.

“The poll results mirror the tensions we see across the country in terms of immigrants and immigration — respondents tended to be evenly split across a variety of the questions,” said Jason Weigle, associate extension educator with Nebraska Extension. “On the balance, though, respondents wished to see a pathway for undocumented migrants who have been trying to be productive members of American society to become residents. Focusing on opportunities for integration across the state can help Nebraska move forward positively.”

This year’s Rural Poll was mailed to 6,260 randomly selected households in nonmetropolitan counties in March and April. One-thousand-seven-hundred-seventy-six households responded, a rate of 28%. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 2%. Complete results are available at http://ruralpoll.unl.edu.

The university’s Department of Agricultural Economics conducts the poll with funding from Nebraska Extension and the Nebraska Rural Futures Institute.

At a time when agricultural employers are struggling to find workers, access to quality child care can aid in worker recruitment, improve retention and boost employee morale.

A new resource, “Roadmap for delivering child care in agricultural communities,” can help ensure that children of workers are kept safely away from dangers on the farm.

“Providing adequate child care services for farm workers is beneficial to both employers and workers, as well as the children,” said Barbara Lee, Ph.D., director, National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. “Making sure the children of workers are kept safely away from dangers on the farm can improve productivity, reduce absenteeism, and improve public relations.”

The resource, developed with input from agricultural business owners, human resources directors, insurance providers, Head Start child care specialists and farm worker parents, is part of the, “Protecting Children While Parents work in Agriculture” project, an initiative of the National Children’s Center and Migrant Clinicians Network. Funding is provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

“The Roadmap is designed to assist individuals and organizations in identifying challenges and assets within their local regions regarding child care services for children of agricultural workers,” said Lee, one of the Roadmap’s contributors. “This local knowledge, combined with the references and resources in the Roadmap, will pave the way for developing an action plan that can help foster access to child care.”

The Roadmap will walk stakeholders through each step on the road to accessible child care. It breaks down the processes of conducting a needs assessment, building a team of stakeholders, identifying funding sources, and implementing and marketing new child care services to those in the community.  Utilizing community resources and links to existing organizations and featured model programs, the workbook will guide businesses to implement the services needed to cultivate their growing community.

If you turn on the news, you will find one story after another about murder, drugs, theft and other crimes. These incidents are not only happening in big cities; rural areas and small towns are dealing with an increasing amount of crime.

Our young professional group recently toured the offices of our police, sheriff and county jail. The visit was eye opening because I have almost no interaction with law enforcement. An important takeaway was the officers’ request for our participation in public safety and community vigilance. Law enforcement officials often rely on community informants and private security footage to capture criminals.

There is a lot of truth to the saying nothing goes unnoticed in a small town. If crime or anything else is happening in your neighborhood, someone knows about it, and they will probably tell you about it. Unless they don’t know you.

Growing up in a very small community, I knew almost everyone in the whole town. In adulthood, that has not been the case. My education and career took me from coast to coast through several big cities over the course of a decade. During that time, I can count on one hand the number of neighbors I met.

Honestly, I avoided them. I was busy, tired from work, had enough people in my life, I felt safer not knowing them and any other excuse that came to mind. None of my neighbors ever knocked on my door either. We were all content in our isolated lives.

This seems to be a trend even in small communities. How many people actually take the time to welcome new neighbors or go door-to-door to meet people if they are new to the neighborhood?

The technology and culture of our connected world have negated the need to interact with others because of their proximity.  The unintended consequence of this is our neighborhoods are now filled with strangers who have no loyalty or reason to care.

The problems this causes are deeper than just an occasional awkward interaction. Not knowing our neighbors is eroding communities.

A podcast on the subject, featuring a crime prevention specialist Stephanie Mann, made me realize this unwillingness to meet neighbors is part of the reason crime is seeping into our neighborhoods.

Mann says fixing community’s problems begins by the small step of meeting your neighbors. Simply knock on their door, ask what concerns they have about the neighborhood and if they are willing to help.

She highlighted multiple examples of this simple step working to bring neighbors together to stop vandalism by supporting the family of troubled teens. Another community documented license plate numbers for visitors to a known drug house while getting the mail and walking their dogs.

Crime is not inevitable. Each one of us has the ability to help protect our family, friends and neighbors. Going outside our comfort zone to get to know our neighbors can create relationships and shared commitment to the goal of a achieving a safe and healthy community.