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Hispanic Heritage 2022: Culture & Diversity by Dr. Kris Lubb from Virginia Tech

The diversity we are experiencing in Southwest Virginia is opening our eyes to many different cultures and customs. The people who have come from south of our border have brought with them rich cultural treasures. The parents are supportive of education, seeing education as a way of helping their children to have better lives, so often teachers regard having these students as a gift. People come to the peaceful community of Floyd, bringing a willingness to work and to share their gifts in ways that enrich all of us. Although most come from Latin America, there is rich diversity in the culture they bring. Not all speak Spanish—some speak an indigenous, non Spanish language. There is a variety in food, music, traditions, religion, music. Get to know your neighbors. Welcome the generosity they want to share with you. Let your senses expand to learn new sounds, sights, tastes, and smells. Learn a bit of Spanish and help people to learn a bit of English. This is an opportunity to travel abroad without leaving home!

Become informed about who people are. In recent years, for a number of reasons, Southwest Virginia has experienced an influx of immigrants, refugees, and asylees. Most people understand that immigrants are people who have chosen to leave their home countries in search of better lives for their families in terms of economic opportunities and better education and more opportunities for their children, much in the same way our own ancestors die.

Many people are unaware of the definitions of refugee and asylum status, both legal statuses granted by the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). Obtaining either refugee or asylee status is a demanding process for individuals or families. According the 1951 Convention, refugees are people who have fled their own countries and are now unwilling or unable to return to their countries due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. They are seeking protection from the US for these humanitarian concerns.

The difference between asylees and refugees is procedural: refugees are outside the US, and asylees are in the US. Both statuses are legal, and recipients of these statuses have the responsibility of following the rules and laws of the US and of the state of residence. They go through extensive, comprehensive background checks. They receive Social Security cards that allow them to work, live, pay taxes, and support their new home.

Help your neighbors to feel welcome and to become productive residents of the community, and help them to integrate into the social network of a lovely mountain home.

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