Immigrants have always been an integral part of Virginia's culture, but their importance to the future success of the state is even greater now. Even well-established migrants face permanent cultural and communication barriers, ranging from social customs to more pressing issues such as religion. For example, children may be embarrassed by not knowing the most popular music. A recent research study conducted by the New American Economy in collaboration with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) and the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia has revealed that immigrants are essential to the region's rapid response efforts.
However, they are particularly vulnerable due to deficiencies in federal aid packages, language access barriers, and the increased risk of infection associated with essential and front-line work. Stephen Carattini, president and CEO of Arlington Catholic Charities, reported that his organization has resettled more than 200 Afghan refugees on special immigrant visas (SIV) in Northern Virginia in the past two months. Finding housing and hiring teachers are some of the challenges faced by resettlement agencies and school administrators in Northern Virginia, who are preparing to house many of the more than 1,100 Afghan refugees expected to be resettled in the state. It is important to recognize that approximately 4 out of 10 immigrants from the region speak English at levels below “very well”. To ensure that families are not turned away from a home due to their race, nationality, or immigration status, it is essential to enforce and strengthen anti-discrimination laws.
This would help alleviate housing problems in the Northern Virginia region. Additionally, about half of the region's immigrants reside in Fairfax County and the independent cities of Falls Church and Fairfax, which are within Fairfax County. More than half (56%) of foreign-born Northern Virginia residents are naturalized citizens, slightly more than state and national rates. To meet the basic needs of more people in Virginia, legislators should continue and increase their investments in the Housing Trust Fund and related housing programs. Northern Virginia will likely have to provide housing and employment for at least 1,000 Haitian refugees over the next few months. It is also important to address the challenges faced by many members of the Northern Virginia immigrant community, such as lower incomes, lack of health insurance, and language barriers.
This is critical to ensuring the well-being of our communities and building a Virginia that works for all of us. In addition to an increase in hospital visits, local school districts such as Fairfax are also starting to see an influx of Afghan refugees. While it is not known how many refugees will be resettled in Northern Virginia, it is estimated that Virginia as a whole could be responsible for resettling some 1,166 Afghans - a figure much higher than most other states. The influx of immigrants into Northern Virginia has brought with it a unique set of challenges that must be addressed if we are to ensure their successful integration into our communities. From language barriers to inadequate housing options, there are numerous obstacles that must be overcome if we are to ensure that these individuals can thrive in their new home.
In order for this to happen, we must work together to provide resources such as language classes, job training programs, and access to affordable housing. We must also recognize that immigrants bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience that can benefit our communities. By providing them with access to education and employment opportunities, we can ensure that they can contribute their skills and talents to our society. Additionally, we must ensure that they have access to healthcare services so that they can stay healthy and safe.
Finally, we must work together to create an environment where immigrants feel welcome and accepted. This means providing them with support networks so they can connect with other members of their community. It also means creating policies that protect them from discrimination based on their race or immigration status. The challenges facing immigrants and refugees in Northern Virginia are significant but not insurmountable.
By working together we can create an environment where everyone feels welcome and supported.