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New Campaign Celebrates WV Immigrants

The majority of immigrants in West Virginia come from India, according to a new report, and many work in the health care industry. (Adobe Stock)
The majority of immigrants in West Virginia come from India, according to a new report, and many work in the health care industry. (Adobe Stock)
January 23, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Trump administration's hard line policies toward immigrants have spurred a coalition of civil rights groups in West Virginia to help change negative perceptions.

On social media, the new Many Roads Home campaign will share the stories of immigrants who've made important contributions to West Virginia's culture and economy, according to Rick Wilson, director of the West Virginia Economic Justice Project with the American Friends Service Committee, a coalition member.

Wilson is coauthor of a report that found even though West Virginia has the smallest number of immigrants in the country, those immigrants are a bright spot in an aging state that is losing population.

"Between 2010 and 2018, there were 19,000 more deaths than births," Wilson points out. "Obviously, we have the opioid crisis. Between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018, we've lost 11,216 people. That's a real sign of a downward spiral."

The report says immigrants account for less than 2% of West Virginia's population, but a higher percentage of them are small business owners and job creators.

The report also found that immigrants here are much more likely to be targeted by ICE raids compared to the national average.

Jackie Lozano, coordinator of the Many Roads Home project. came to the United States from Mexico when she was two years old. She says the campaign aims to change the views of people who assume immigrants are criminals by showing the reality of their many contributions to their communities.

"People have, like, this very bad idea of immigrants," she acknowledges. "They don't see us as humans -- they just see us as, 'Oh, they're here to take our jobs; they're here to do like terrorist type things' -- which is not true."

Studies show no link between rising immigration numbers and crime.

In more than 130 U.S. metropolitan areas, immigration increased, and the rate of violent crimes decreased, between 1980 and 2016, according to a report by The Marshall Project.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV