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

Latinization of the Central Shenandoah Valley

In this article, the author, Laura Zarrugh, discusses how there has been major growth in the Harrisonburg area of the Shenandoah Valley. This area has the most diverse public school enrollment in the state. Between 1990 and 2000, there was a 104% growth in the Latino community. Zarrugh explains that this area was originally where many German Mennonites and Brethren would come when there was little land to be found in Pennsylvania. She even called them the economic backbone. Within the last century, this area has also seen a decrease in its African American population. Both the Mennonite Church and Church of the Brethren have had long histories of helping with and being involved in refugee and immigrant assistance within the US and has continued to do so. This area is known for this agricultural industry in both poultry and apples and has recruited from Latin countries. Its recruitment has mainly been of Mexican immigrants. Zarrugh explains how these migrants would often participate in migrant circuits, “picking their way up the East Coast” (27). Many of the same people would come back year after year. Many would eventually leave the agricultural side and would go to work in the poultry plants. Instead of going back to Mexico from November to February once getting these jobs, these migrants would stay in the area where they had year-round jobs. Zarrugh also talked about the experiences of different immigrants and how one would need to be “invited” to come to work by someone they knew. Being invited meant that you would have a place to sleep/stay and something to eat until you were able to save enough to find somewhere on your own. This area was also big for refugee resettlement because of church sponsors, low-skill jobs, and the lower cost of living. Churches played a large role in sponsoring families and individuals until they were able to live on their own as well.

Perfectly American: Immigration & Richmond

In this article by David W. Haines and Karen E. Rosenblum, they discuss how refugee resettlement was once done through voluntary-managed programs and is now more formal and regulated. The American response to the refuge and the refugees are mixed, but Haines and Rosenblum focus more on the experience of Richmond refugees. They go on to talk about how Richmond has normalized refuges and that there are newspaper articles about the experiences of these refugees. This has become helpful because it has shown more about how the refugee experience is constructed by those who host them as they resettle in the US. These elements become dynamic of individual experiences. Specifically, they focus on Richmond between 1975 and 1999. They list a few individual stories that follow the same guidelines that other published stories do – their reason to leave, “justified flight,” additional losses they faced along the way, and their eventual resettlement. Unlike other local news, coverage of refugees is always considered timely and localized. What I thought was really interesting was that refugees were considered and described as “exemplifying the classic American virtues” (396). Many of the refugees are sponsored by local churches or synagogues, who later encouraged their sponsored refugees to practice their specific religion. These articles would then put the refugee’s individual experiences of real-world events into a more personal sphere. The next part of the article focused on the refugee category compared to racial divisions and that though newspaper coverage of them can be positive there is also a negative side, being used as a foil against other minorities. But having more refugees is “important as the vanguard in expanding the parameters of diversity” (400). They concluded the article talking about how the stories of these refugees would look very different in larger cities.

Immigrant Newcomers in Williamsburg, VA

In this article by Deenesh Sohoni and Jennifer Bickham Mendez, they discuss how reports, columnists, and readers of the Virginia Gazette draw on national and international public interpretations of immigration issues. They write that tensions over these issues tend to appear in new immigrant destinations as issues become more public which gives form to more fear and anxiety. They stress that smaller communities are becoming important sites for understanding public interpretation and responses to immigration issues. To get a better understanding specifically of what is happening in Williamsburg, Sohoni and Mendez analyzed 500 texts from the Virginia Gazette and noted two different patterns – how national frames are used on local issues and how localized symbolic boundaries are created. Their analysis specifically focused on the Last Word section from 2006 and 2007. They split up 522 texts into six categories, classified by type, the writers attitude regarding immigration, and whether or not it was inclusive or exclusive. They also noticed that the more people wrote into the Last Word, the more articles were published in the main sections of the paper. They also discussed the difference between the “good” and the “bad” immigrants that people are writing about. The “good” immigrants are usually foreign exchange students with a strong work ethic who contribute to the community and come from well off Eastern European or Asian families/countries. The “bad” immigrants are from more specific places, like Mexico, and are illegal immigrants are that “guest workers” who are expected to work and then leave, but usually settle and stay in the area (511). What I found to be the most interesting when the listed issues of how fast Williamsburg has grown and developed. Because of the increase in people, housing isn’t as available, it’s more costly, there’s a loss of “small town life,” and there are new schools and redistricting. I found this whole article to be very interesting.

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