20th/21st Century Immigration & VA: Blog Post #5

Williamsburg has been a destination for immigration for more than 400 years.  In recent years it has become attractive to Eastern European and Asian immigrants because of the abundance of entry-level, and service sector positions.  J-1 Exchange Visitor visas allow workers to legally work for up to three months and to travel for up to thirty days prior to employment.   The Williamsburg s grew significantly during the 1990s and early 2000s.  The Hispanic population nearly quadrupled in size.  This growth has caused controversy.  The controversy is demonstrated through media exchanges between journalists and readers.  Normally seen in larger cities, Williamsburg demonstrates a smaller community where public reaction to media coverage can be analyzed.  Debates on issues including language, employment conditions, pay rates, tax burdens, and criminality among others.  The coverage allowed a conclusion to be drawn about the costs to American workers and taxpayers. 

Harrisonburg, VA is a small community “over the mountain” west of Fredericksburg.  The community largely known as the home of James Madison University, also has a large Hispanic population.  Between 19990 and 2000 the Hispanic population including 14 different Latin American countries grew 400%.  Latino’s were recruited to work in the orchards and poultry industry beginning in the 1970s.  The Immigration Reform Act of 1986 gave amnesty to undocumented workers helped to transform Hispanics form illegal migrant workers to legal “green card” holders, allowed permeant settlement in the Shenandoah Valley.  The poultry industry’s growth in the 980s and the strike created a need for more positions.  Over time Latino’s were recruited to replace more expensive unionized workers.  Religion played an important role in the Latinization of the Shenandoah Valley.  Special ministries catering to the specific needs of Latino’s help to create a welcoming atmosphere.  Multiple demonization’s reached out including the Mennonites.  Although the Hispanic community in Harrisonburg began mainly with Mexican immigrants it has expanded to include at least 14 different counties including Cuba, Honduras, Guatemala, Uruguay, Columbia, and Nicaragua. 

Although many come to America in search of a better life, there are those who are seeking refuge from persecution, war, or natural disaster.  America’s involvement had developed from a largely voluntary-agency-managed program to formal and regulated.  The refugees re-settling in Richmond, Virginia are for the most part success stories.  Refugees are described as exemplifying classic American virtues including being hard-working, dependable, and glad to be in America.  Refugees include Eastern Europeans from the Soviet Union, Asians from Cambodia, Hattians, and Bosnians.  Richmond equates the individual success of a refugee as a success for the City. Refugees provide Richmond with the opportunity to reiterate it key values linking the concepts of freedom, independence, and self-sufficiency.  Refugees usually come to a community because they are being sponsored by an individual or an organization such as a church. 

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