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 Speedpass. Sold!
- 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!