The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - 90

H OU S E K E EPING:

Some definitions
There's confusion regarding the use of the
words 'immigrant', 'migrant', 'refugee' and
'asylum-seeker'; these days they are often
used interchangeably. It's understandable
- there's a lot of overlap, and one group
can be a subset of another. A quick look at
Google Dictionary shows:
a refugee "has been forced to leave their
country in order to escape war, persecution,
or natural disaster," typically without

warning, whereas an immigrant "comes
to live permanently in a foreign country,"
which requires some planning. A migrant
is a person "who moves from one place to
another, especially in order to find work or
better living conditions." This term is often
applied to seasonal agricultural workers,
who cross borders regularly for work. An
asylum-seeker is a person "who has left their
home country as a political refugee and is
seeking asylum in another." The meaning
of 'asylum' at international borders has long
been broadened to its concurrent meaning,
"shelter or protection from danger," as people
around the world flee domestic and gang
violence as well as political persecution.

"Immigrants are more likely to start their own businesses,
and more likely to succeed," says Beth Lutjen, executive director
of Roanoke's star diversity organization, Local Colors. "They
just work hard, pool their money, hire family members and pull
together as a group."
Lutjen paints a picture that reflects American small business
of an earlier age, when Mom and Pop owned a grocery store and
lived in a little apartment in the back, a model that is still often
found in other countries.
"If you give an immigrant a house, they'll fix up the main floor,
put their business there, and live in the basement," Lutjen says.
"An American would spend money on the main floor and live
there, and put their business in the basement. Their definition
of what you 'have to have' to live is different."
Overall, Virginia's population is aging. An aging population
means a shrinking tax base, and a shrinking tax base means tighter
budgets and fewer services, as well as fewer people to do the work.
That's particularly true of the rural counties southwest of
Roanoke, many of which, as a result of declining coal and textilebased economies, are also losing their younger residents to job
opportunities elsewhere. The death rate now outstrips the birth
rate in Southwest Virginia.
90

MAY/JUNE 2019

-AS

Immigrants are one way rural communities are revitalizing.
According to an NPR report by Melissa Block ( July 16, 2018),
Galax, that bastion of Blue Ridge Mountain culture, has one of the
fastest growing Hispanic populations in the state. A third of the
town's high school students are from Mexico or Honduras. Ten of
11 starters on their championship basketball team are Hispanic.
"There's not a lot of folks around this area that I know of that
will go and do what these Mexicans do," Stevie Barr of Barr's
Fiddle Shop told Block. "They work from daylight to dawn." He
also believes people should enter the country through legal ports.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the vast majority of
immigrants in metro Roanoke come from Asia (31.9 percent)
and Latin America (30.2 percent). A drive down Williamson
Road supports those figures, as the street is lined with Asian
and Hispanic groceries and popular restaurants. Many store
owners are happy to answer questions and give advice on foods
unfamiliar to the U.S.-born shopper.
"They're happy to share their culture," says Lutjen. "They're
delighted when someone shows an interest. And they're very
interested in being here, in learning American culture."
"My first goal was to learn English," says Cruz. He had no
formal training, relying instead on immersion among English
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The Roanoker - May/June 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - May/June 2019

The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Intro
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Cover1
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Cover2
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - 3
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The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Cover3
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Cover4
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