Maine is one of two states in the country where there are more deaths every year than births, yet our population has not shrunk.

The way we have pulled off this trick – continuing to show even slow population growth – is through immigration.

That’s a good thing. Fewer people means fewer taxpayers, fewer customers in stores, fewer kids in schools, fewer opportunities all around. Our economic future depends in part on a sustainable level of growth.

That’s an important thing to remember when evaluating President Trump’s executive order on immigration, which has created a chaotic and unpredictable environment for people who are trying to come to America from seven Muslim-majority nations.

Most of the initial reaction against the order has been – rightly – on moral and humanitarian grounds. Considering our history as a nation of immigrants that was built by people escaping persecution and poverty in every corner of the world, slamming the doors behind us is unconscionable when there are people who need our help.

Another wave of legitimate criticism has attacked the incompetent way the order was issued and the confusion that it has caused among the people who have to enforce it. To date, 1,000 State Department professionals have signed on to a “dissent channel” memo, making the case that the order does not make us safer, while at the same time it sends a message of hostility to potential allies around the world.


Those are important factors to consider, but it’s also important for Mainers to consider that immigration is more than just a matter of humanitarian aid or national security. It’s also a key factor in our economic future.

We often hear about how the founders of Google and Apple were immigrants or the children of immigrants, but examples exist closer to home of people who have moved here from overseas and are making a contribution to the Maine economy. Habib Dagher, a native of Lebanon, heads the Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine, which provides product development and testing services to 500 clients, big companies and small.

And Nadir Yildirim, born in Turkey, who received a doctorate in forest resources from UMaine, has stayed in the state to launch a high-tech startup that is looking to make insulation panels from the molecular building blocks of wood.

Regulations based on unfounded fears of terrorism or immigrants taking away American jobs will only make the problems they are trying to fix get worse.

The borders could never be shut tight enough to keep out the small number of people who are bent on doing harm to us, but excessive control can create obstacles that keep away the people who want to come and contribute to our society.

In a recent speech, Sen. George Mitchell, whose mother was also an immigrant from Lebanon, pointed out that there is talent in every corner of the world, but it doesn’t flourish everywhere. America, with its traditions of openness and opportunity, has benefited from giving newcomers from every nation a chance to succeed.

President Trump’s executive order disrupts a system that has benefited everyone who lives here. Maine can’t afford to waste this resource. All Mainers should demand that the travel order be rescinded, and Congress begin work on comprehensive immigration reform.

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