What’s your society’s policy on immigration?
July 30, 2013There is a heated political debate going on in Washington, D.C., about the nation’s immigration laws. Issues like path to citizenship, border security, and deportation are in the news on an almost daily basis. What on earth do these topics have to do with fraternal benefit societies? Everything… In the late 19th and early 20th Century, immigrants flocked to the U.S. seeking opportunities that didn’t exist in their homelands. Fraternals played an integral role in helping these new citizens adjust to life in America and preserve the language, culture, and traditions of their native lands. Equally important, fraternals helped these immigrants build financial security for their families – which commercial insurance companies at the time were unwilling to do – and by doing so helped create America’s middle class. That’s no small feat and one that all of us in the fraternal movement should take pride in. Immigrants provided a virtually endless stream of new members for fraternal societies. And the first generation of children of these immigrants was also certain to remain members of the society. But as the flow of new European immigrants to the U.S. slowed, and the subsequent generations of these families became assimilated into American culture, the source of new members for many societies waned. In 2013, every fraternal (whether bonded by ethnicity, religion, gender, occupation, or shared values) is seeking “immigrants” – new members to help societies remain the vital engine of financial security and economic success that helped build this nation. I came across this quote on immigration from President Ronald Reagan recently and discovered that by changing a few words – “nation” -to “society” and “people” to “members” – his reasoning applies directly to our organizations: "We lead the world because, unique among nations [societies], we draw our people [members]—our strength—from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so, we continuously renew and enrich our nation [society]. While other countries [societies] cling to the stale past, here in America [our society] we breathe life into dreams. We create the future, and the world follows us into tomorrow. Thanks to each wave of new arrivals [members] to this land of opportunity [society], we're a nation [society] forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier. This quality is vital to our future as a nation [society]. If we ever closed the door to new Americans [members], our leadership in the world would soon be lost." I’ve been to many fraternal meetings over the past five years and couldn’t help but notice that the audiences look remarkably alike – same color, same age, same views, etc. If our system is going to survive and prosper, we’ve got to attract new, younger members – immigrants – who will help restore societies’ ability to be the instruments of financial security for younger, less wealthy Americans and meaningful community service activities that enhance the nation’s quality of life. Who are your societies’ “immigrants?” What type of experience are you offering these prospective members, who may look and think in distinctly different ways that your current members? I’d love to hear from you. Post your comments here… P.S. Is there a crying need for new societies (or chapters of existing societies without definitive ethnic common bonds) to be created to address the need of America’s new immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America, Africa, and Asia? Absolutely! But that’s an issue for another posting.