Immigration to Virginia: Demographic Transition, Political Incorporation and Bureaucratic Responses

Elizabeth Durden, Bucknell University
Daniel Tichenor, University of Oregon

This research focuses on the particular state of Virginia and its demographic transition starting in the 1960s, as the counties in the Northern part of the state, known locally as ‘NOVA’, experienced massive ethnic evolution. The state expanded from its historical white-black dichotomous racial profile to include a large international population. Two different sides of the world came crashing into this region, as migrants from Latin America and refuges from Asia descended into the southern state, largely taking residence in the suburbs of the nation’s capital. As Northern Virginia experienced this radical reconfiguration of its population, various stakeholders emerged and responded to this massive shift. Local advocacy groups formed to defend migrants and refugees while ethnic solidarity groups formed to draw attention to their own plights, struggles and successes. Local government agencies and institutions in Northern Virginia responded to this massive shift in population and struggled to deal with the new pressures being put on social services. The active response of local communities is in striking contrast to the lack of activity by state leaders. State level elected officials largely ignored the newly residing groups except when the promise of Federal funds were tantalizing dangled in front of them. The startling demographic realities that unfolded in Virginia during the 1960s, 70s and 80s worked to facilitate two states within one. NOVA emerged as an incubator of migrant integration, transforming the sleepy rural suburbs of Washington DC to a cosmopolitan canopy of ethnicities, seemingly emerging into a geographic space reminiscent of the United Nations. In contrast, the rest of the state seemed to repeatedly disregard the massive transformation happening a mere two hours north of the state capital, turning a blind eye to the newly ethnic configurations and concerns related to migrants and refugees.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 28. Spaces of Immigrant Reception and Exclusion: Immigration Federalism in the United States