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Gazette-Mail editorial: West Virginia has an immigration problem

The past few days have been a bad stretch in the national media for West Virginia. Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a summary of Gov. (and now U.S. Senate nominee) Jim Justice’s massive financial problems. A few days prior, the Wall Street Journal ran a piece on the paradox of the state’s rock bottom work participation rate and lawmakers’ anti-immigration stance.

Reporter Paul Kiernan touched on Justice’s political stunt in which he dispatched National Guard troops to Texas, the bill he signed banning “sanctuary cities” and proposed legislation that would allow for the removal of some legal immigrants who have the requirements to work here. Kiernan also mentioned West Virginia legislative proposals to allot funding to Texas so the state can put more razor wire in the Rio Grande.

Meanwhile, people running small businesses in West Virginia told Kiernan they can’t find help. One business owner in Franklin who relies on migrant workers said “they are like family.” And yet, for all of the polarization around the issue, West Virginia doesn’t have a lot of immigrants, illegal or otherwise. This exacerbates West Virginia’s ongoing population loss. While other states have turned to immigrants to help fill gaps in the workforce, the population in West Virginia just gets older and more insular.

Some argue West Virginians like it that way.

“West Virginians don’t want immigration — of any kind,” Pendleton Times editor Stephen Smoot told the Journal. Smoot went on to say people who move to West Virginia from other states are viewed with suspicion and treated as outsiders.

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