Calling immigrants and their advocates in small towns

In earlier eras immigrants to the United States came primarily from Europe and headed for the big cities. Starting in the late 1960s they arrived from all over the world and settled in suburban areas as well. Migration from Mexico–always substantial in California and the Southwest–spread beyond the coastal and border states in the 1980s. And now, in the 21st century, the new destinations for immigrants from Central America, Africa, Asia, and everywhere else include rural areas and small towns.

It’s hard to know how extensive this movement is, what its effects are on the receiving communities, and how the new arrivals are fitting into small-town America.  The cold numbers of the federal census don’t give us more than a glimpse of human lives and may not be very reliable. The media rarely care about small town events and people, short of natural disasters or heinous crimes.

Ignorance about this aspect of immigration matters. It reinforces the isolation that rural residents–both immigrants and the native-born–often feel. It impedes understanding between people of different cultures and habits. And it hides some real advances in communities where immigrants have become a substantial share of the population.  The American small town has been in decline, economically and demographically, since the mid-twentieth century, but in some places the energy and competence  of immigrants (documented or not) has boosted revitalization.

This blog aims to collect information and perspectives on small-town immigration and bring together people who care about it. I will be posting factual material and my own views of what I am discovering. Whether you are an immigrant, an activist, a teacher, or a political leader, I hope you will check in occasionally to see what you can learn here. And perhaps you will want to post, also. Tell me the stories of immigrants and the effects of immigration in your small town. I will try to be a reasonable editor of reasonable opinions; contributions are expected to be civil and coherent.

Dinni Gordon
May 15, 2015

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