This Illinois Resident Learned the True Meaning of Community From His Town’s Diverse Immigrant Population

Lincoln Lounsbury didn’t grow up with a deep understanding of community, but as an adult, his experience living and socializing with immigrants has shown him how important community can be. His wife comes from a line of Irish Catholic and Czech Catholic immigrants. “It was so interesting to me when we went to visit her family,” says Lounsbury. “Their friends were the kids of Irish immigrants. They had a very direct immigrant connection and strong Catholic community. They had this sense of place that I didn’t have growing up.”

As Lounsbury grew closer to his wife’s family, he saw how faith was ingrained in both the community and the culture, and it inspired community members to be civically engaged. He saw that this ethos sprung from his wife’s maternal grandparents and their immigrant background. “Like so many Chicago Catholics, the church served as a kind of social glue for different immigrant groups who might not have otherwise been drawn to each other,” says Lounsbury. “My wife’s mother spent decades in the North Side Chicago parish volunteering endlessly,” he recalls.

Lounsbury embraced that sense of rooted community. He moved to the Chicago suburb of Libertyville, converted to Catholicism, and baptized his children in the Catholic Church. When his local parish vocally opposed same-sex marriage, Lounsbury and his wife moved to Libertyville’s St. Lawrence Episcopal Church, a place that “focused on diversity as a value.”

The more our country embraces the full spectrum of humanity, the more we thrive.

This diversity is what Lounsbury loves the most about his town. His closest friends in Libertyville are the sons and daughters of Korean, Filipino, Greek, and Irish immigrants who came to the Chicago area decades ago and, through dedication and hard work, were able to send their kids to college. Over the years, Lounsbury has gotten to know the families running the local Indian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, and Thai restaurants. “The people in my community are immigrants. We have relationships with people who run restaurants here. They make our community more interesting and diverse.” They’ve become friends, swapping stories about their kids, their vacations, and their work. “That sort of small business, entrepreneur thing is what makes a community really interesting, instead of chain stores,” says Lounsbury. These groups bolster Libertyville’s economy and culture, and their presence affirms one of Lounsbury’s core social values. “It’s nice to have people rooted in the community.”

Lounsbury believes that the more our country embraces the full spectrum of humanity, the more we thrive. Immigration, he says, is the lifeblood of America. We need newcomers, he says, because “not only do you get diversity of ideas, but you can bring in talented people.” As a lawyer in corporate America, Lounsbury sees how companies have a hard time recruiting talent. The very technical skills needed to help companies grow “are hard to come by,” he says.

More broadly, Lounsbury hopes our country’s leaders forcefully push back against the dangerous anti-diversity political rhetoric. “Immigration is very important because it’s a counter to that. We need to have a culture that not only values diversity, but also values people who are diverse, coming together to form families and communities.”

Despite growing up “as white as they come,” in a family that gave little thought to immigrants, Lounsbury’s education, faith, and core values have motivated him to support immigration reform. He wants our nation’s leaders to learn about the economic and cultural benefits brought by immigrants and act quickly on this moral issue. “Immigrants made America,” says Lounsbury. “In order for America to continue to prosper and grow, it needs new people and new ideas.”

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…