My Immigrant Experience

Lots of folks in the DC suburbs – including in nearby Herndon, VA – are making noise about illegal immigrants, the rule of law, English-only statutes, migrant workers, and the meaning of life in a suburbia that was first built in the 1950s (but which looks and sounds a bit different these days). 

(For Washington Post coverage, click here.  When more of my brain cells are working, I’ll comment on why attempts by local jurisdictions to weed out illegal immigrants is counterproductive, a waste of time & money, immoral, nonsensical, and just plain silly.  But that will come later.  I’m tired and have a cranky, sick children at the moment.)

Take my "immigrant experience" of living outside the DC Beltway in Northern Virginia for less than two weeks:

  • We rent our townhouse from a Swedish couple who immigrated to this country 35 years ago.
  • From what I can tell, at least three languages in addition to English are spoken in homes on my block (Spanish, Hindi and Greek)
  • At the Exxon station a few days ago the manager – a heavily accented young Indian man named Vijay – offered customers a free case of Coke and a discount on gas simply for signing up for SpeedpassSold!
  • At the McDonald’s next store to the Indian-run gas station, the young lady taking my order accidentally gave me the price in Spanish – "Ocho trenta y dos, I mean, eight thirty two.  Sorry about that.  Please pull around."
  • A Korean congregation uses my internship church’s building for worship on Sunday afternoons.
  • Many of the stores in the local shopping center prominently feature Spanish-language displays and signs.

I’m loving it. 

Fairfax ain’t multicultural nirvana, nor is it the Kingdom of God where all peoples have a seat at the table, but it is much more diverse than my old neighborhood.  Using data from 2000, my old zip code is 95.8% white, whereas my new zip code is "only" 75.1% white.  And living along a primary commercial corridor connecting DC to the sprawling suburbs (sprawl that attracts large amounts of immigrant and low-wage labor), the folks who work, shop and do business in my zip code – that is, the folks make this place tick – are much more diverse than even the somewhat diverse folks who live here.

Thank you, God, for the many people who live, work, and contribute to this community!

Published by Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. Veteran. Jedi. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.

3 thoughts on “My Immigrant Experience

  1. There was a surge of anti-immigrant attitudes in the earlier half of the 20th century, much of it aimed against Eastern Europeans, often listing the same anti-immigrant complaints heard today.”Illegals” are not a new phenomena, and they will bring us to ruin no more than the “illegals”/undocumented immigrants of the past. My own great-grandfather emigrated to Canada, where he continued work as a lumberjack, and his work just happened to lead him southward into Wisconsin, without anyone’s approval (or disapproval), without documentation, etc. It’s a dangerous line of work, he ended up injured, and the family settled in Wisconsin, where they built a house, and where three more generations of working class family were born. And that is a pretty typical American story.
    This nation was built, not destroyed, by immigrants, many of whom were undocumented, technically “illegals”. Waves of immigrants have proved to have a discomforting passion for American ideals of equality and opportunity, and as a result, tended to work toward reducing economic disparities, taking some of the power out of the hands of the ruling class and restoring it to the people. Is it any surprise when those in power, seeing this threat, wage periodic propaganda campaigns against immigrants, primarily claiming that they are draining the nation’s resources and taking our jobs?

  2. My main (and repeated) comment to those who would insist that business be done in English is this. Send your Spanish speaking customers to me!
    For a small operating cost, I can create multi-lingual signs and websites. I can hire enough bi-lingual custome support reps to handle the Spanish speaking customers and I’d be more than happy to have them buy my product, instead of yours.
    So go ahead, limit your product to the English speaking customers. Send the others to me. I’d be happy to service them.

  3. Did you know that S. Korea is over 50% Christian and that the Catholic missionaries went there over 250 years ago and that the largest group of non-Italian RC saints are Korean? The largest Presbyterian church in the world is in Korea. I have a book about the history of Christianity in Korea.
    I worshipped in a Presbyterian church in Korea where the singing was out of this world. The only words I could understand was the equivalent of Jesus. Praise God for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
    I’m sure you met lots of Korean in P, NJ. I hope you take advantage of any opportunities to eat Korean food. I love it.
    Is this group of worshipers Lutheran?

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