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OPINION: We’re amazing — of course everyone wants to move here

Michael Schaus
Michael Schaus

There was a time when individuals all along the political spectrum understood that being the “shining city on a hill” meant the world’s huddled masses would clamor to be a part of our American dream.

According to a recent Rasmussen poll, however, Nevadans aren’t exactly eager to welcome those huddled masses into our little corner of the country. 

Given the abysmal state of immigration policy under the Biden administration — and previous administrations — the poll’s findings aren’t terribly surprising. Seventy-one percent of Nevadans, for example, believe the government should mandate the use of the federal electronic E-Verify system to ensure the legal status of workers. Similarly, 60 percent of Nevadans favor “reducing immigration” more broadly. 

More interesting, however, is the way in which these attitudes seep into how Nevadans feel about the population growth of our state overall — even outside the context of the illegal immigration crisis on the national level. 

Slightly more than half of the poll’s respondents (51 percent) said they want local and state governments in Nevada to “make it more difficult for people to move to Nevada from other states.” 

Forget a wall on the Mexican border, Nevadans apparently want a wall between us and California. 

To be sure, there are some reasonable concerns about the state’s rapid population increase and the throngs of new residents moving here each year. According to the poll, Nevada has had the fastest population growth in the nation since the 1980s — and that kind of boom inevitably creates unique challenges for those who already call this state home. 

From concerns about water supply to a shortage of affordable housing, a quickly booming population can create serious growing pains for local communities. However, those challenges shouldn’t justify sealing off our state with a (metaphorical) wall to keep others from enjoying the paradise we’ve found here in Nevada. After all, as Ronald Reagan opined in his farewell address from the Oval Office, if a “shining city on a hill” had to have walls, the walls should have doors that are “open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.” 

In the same way as countless desperate immigrants claw their way under concertina wire and trudge through vast deserts to find refuge in America, those of us lucky enough to already live in the United States tend to flock to the states where we can live our best lives. The fact that so many view Nevada to be such a promising state is evidence that, for a great many ambitious and hopeful Americans, we represent the best this nation has to offer. 

Intentionally destroying that reality by making it “more difficult” for individuals to carve out their slice of the American dream is an affront to the spirit that has made this such a wonderful place to call home in the first place. 

Or to put it even more simply: If we want to continue to be an amazing place to live, work and play, we’re going to have to accept that evermore people will want to come here to do precisely that. 

Whether it’s national or state-level immigration concerns, we should take pride in the fact that what we’ve created here is so attractive to so many people from elsewhere. And rather than hoard it for ourselves, it should be our ambition to share this land with others.  

To be sure, there will be cultural and political challenges with such continued population increases — but none of those challenges are insurmountable, provided we adopt policies aimed at keeping pace with our growth rather than limiting it. 

The bipartisan push from Gov. Joe Lombardo and Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) to streamline the process for developing certain public lands is an example of such a policy. After all, it isn’t only demand for housing that is driving up prices — the regulatory and legal restrictions placed on our ability to increase supply are equally, if not more, at fault. 

Water availability is, of course, another matter. We live in an arid state deeply dependent on the finite amount of snowmelt in nearby and faraway mountain ranges to keep our faucets flowing. 

However, just as with so many growth-related challenges, a great percentage of our problems are just as political as they are physical. In many critical ways, water policy in the West has remained relatively unchanged since the mid-1800s, encouraging an overuse of such a precious resource. Also, most water policy still depends on the allocation of water rights that were drawn up when rivers flowed more fully, and conservation wasn’t as necessary. 

As this columnist has written about before, the rigid and wasteful rules regarding water throughout the West isn’t up to the task of our modern times — but such policies are hardly set in stone. Like any area of public policy, reform is possible and, in some cases, already happening

In other words, we don’t have to “make it more difficult” for people from other states to move to Nevada to address these challenges — we merely need to make it easier for our economy, our infrastructure and our public policies to keep pace. 

And such growth isn’t something we must grudgingly endure — it’s actually critical to our long-term economic prosperity. Immigration has been shown to boost wages, diversify economies and even lead to job growth in local communities. As it turns out, inbound immigration is even necessary to combat some of the worrying demographic trends many corners of America have seen, such as low fertility rates, increased retirements and fewer local workers. 

Luckily, as we can tell by the masses that are desperately flocking to our nation’s southern border, there are swaths of people from all over the world who are eager to come here and help us grow our economy. America remains a refuge of opportunity in our modern world. It remains that shining city on a hill. Immigration policy needs to mean more than building a metaphorical or literal wall — it also has to mean building those doors so we can welcome anyone with the “will and the heart to get here.”  

And that’s true whether we’re talking about the crisis on America’s southern border, or the wave of Californians crossing Nevada’s state line in search of a more attainable version of the American dream. 

Michael Schaus is a communications and branding expert based in Las Vegas, Nevada, and founder of Schaus Creative LLC — an agency dedicated to helping organizations, businesses and activists tell their story and motivate change. He has more than a decade of experience in public affairs commentary, having worked as a news director, columnist, political humorist, and most recently as the director of communications for a public policy think tank. Follow him at or on Twitter at @schausmichael.


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