The other day in Buxton, I saw a pickup truck with a sticker on the back window in the shape of the United States. Inside that outline were the words “TRUCK OFF, WE’RE FULL.” Only the sticker didn’t say “truck.” It said – well, it said a word that made me feel bad for anyone stuck in traffic behind it with a kid at the age where they read everything they see out loud.

I may be a wacky, transgressive liberal with a passion for bumper stickers, but I would never drive around with profanity on the back of my Subaru. In addition to being disgusting and racist, the sticker is inaccurate. It’s simply not true that our country is “full,” and it’s even more untrue for Maine. (My friend Nicole’s response was “dude, have you been to Washington County?”) Maine is one of four states that, according to the most recent government data, has had more deaths than births every year.

So what I would like to ask the truck guy, and anyone who shares his worldview, is this: What’s your plan for dealing with our population decline, bub?

The situation of deaths outnumbering births is called “natural decrease.” You could also refer to it as “slow death.” Because if the numbers keep up like that, Maine will run out of people. It’s a simple mathematical fact, and as we all know, facts don’t care about your feelings. And even if Maine doesn’t die out completely and turn into an empty forest, our economy will suffer as houses go unbought, schools close for lack of students and businesses shutter without customers. And our economy is already struggling enough.

I am pro-immigration and pro-immigrant. Most folks are in favor of immigration. But the minority who isn’t, for whatever reason (usually racism), is often very loud and angry. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and in this case, it absolutely shouldn’t.

So if you’re in favor of more immigration, now is the time to start letting people in your life know. Your family, your friends, your various state and federal representatives. Because immigration was so restricted under the Trump administration, it’s almost a guarantee that, even if the Biden administration does the absolute bare minimum of “not actively abusing migrants,” we will likely see immigration levels rise. This may make right-wingers freak out. Our job is to not let their emotions get in the way of our economy.

For all its flaws (like the presence of Truck Guy), I love Maine. I was born and raised here, but, much more importantly, I had the opportunity to move away and I did not take it. I gave up true love in order to stay here and build my life here, and I’m not going to sacrifice Maine’s future just because a couple of angry white people are scared to hear someone speaking a different language in the checkout line at Hannaford. If people choose to live in Maine, we should welcome them. It takes a lot of guts to move to a state that is very rural, extremely white and freezing cold.

I believe that increasing immigration levels is the morally correct thing to do, especially when it comes to refugees and asylum seekers. I believe that it is also the economically smart thing to do, and data back me up on this. Also, anecdotally: How many of you reading this have a story in your family history of your great-great-grandfather coming to America with nothing but a dollar in his pocket and a dream in his heart and working hard and building a life for his family here?

That’s what the American dream is. Only nowadays, the immigrants are coming from the Middle East and Central America and Africa, instead of Europe. (For the record, my ancestor Archibald MacEachern arrived in the American Colonies in the 1720s, before there was much of a bureaucracy or any rules whatsoever on immigration. He and his brother just sort of showed up and, a few decades later, received a “land grant” of land stolen from Native Americans in the Adirondacks.) And immigration is culturally enriching.

Without it, the American melting pot would become bland and stale. My family’s life has been made so much better by the presence of immigrants. My mom’s best friend is from England. My sister has a close friend from Sudan.

Now, I’m always open to hearing other points of view. So if you have a plan to reverse our population decline and revive our economy that doesn’t involve immigration, I would love to hear it. In the meantime, I’ll be welcoming New Mainers. And Truck Guy? Well, he can truck off.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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