Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Asians make up Virginia’s largest immigrant population

Two women sit at a news desk, both are smiling at each other during a conversation
Adam Hamza
VPM News Focal Point
Asian immigrants helping Afghan refugees resettle in Virginia after escaping the Taliban.

Exploring the contributions of the state’s largest immigrant population and how Asian Americans are working to help Afghan refugees who came to Virginia after the Taliban took control of their country.


ANGIE MILES: More than 42% of immigrants come to Virginia from Asia, and Asian Americans represent the largest group of immigrants in the state. Joining us is Julie Laghi, Chair of the Asian American Society of Central Virginia, to speak about this diverse group of people and its impact on the Commonwealth. Welcome to our program.

JULIE LAGHI: Thank you, Angie.

ANGIE MILES: So, tell us a little bit about your organization. What is the purpose?

JULIE LAGHI: Our purpose is to create awareness, unity, harmony amongst our community, Asian members. The Organization was established in 1998. And that's like 25 years ago. So, it's a milestone for us right now.

ANGIE MILES: There are separate communities that come together to comprise the Asian community. What are some of those sub communities as a part of your organization?

JULIE LAGHI: Sure. Our organization consists of 19 communities. And we have for instance, like the Afghan, the Bangladesh, the Bhutanese, the Burmese, the Chinese, the Cambodian, the Vietnamese, the Japanese Singaporeans, like me, I'm from Singapore, Malaysia, Napoli, Pakistan, tie so all in 19 of us.

ANGIE MILES: How would you characterize the contributions of Asian immigrants to Virginia?

JULIE LAGHI: Sure. The Asian immigrants have businesses, they restaurants, laundromats, nail salons, are usually all run by Asian immigrants. I would say that they contribute in the sense culturally as well as economically.

ANGIE MILES: Your organization has taken a firm stance on the Afghan Adjustment Act, which, of course did not succeed in Congress in 2022. What is your position on the fate of Afghan parolees?

JULIE LAGHI: They all have to seek for political asylum. And this is hindering also the permanent residence application status. Okay. And as you know, the green card application status is a long process. So they are like, from what I know, 75, or 76,000 of them, Afghans that are waiting in line to have their status change, so to speak, because what will happen to them is, they will lose their social security benefits, they will also lose the temporary working card. So, then that means that they will be there will be unable to find a job, because not having a permit to work.

ANGIE MILES: I mean, in speaking with some who came here as refugees from Afghanistan, even now, because their future is uncertain. They have communicated having a hard time finding places to live, find people who will rent to them or sell to them, because they say, Well, what if you're not here in another year or two years? So, whatis your message then to Congress?

I would say that please pass this bill for the resettlement act for the Afghans so that they will be able to settle here legally, they will be able to get jobs, they will be able to support the community, and basically to have a better life, you know. And that is what I would ask the Congress to do.

ANGIE MILES: How do Asian immigrants enrich the state of Virginia?

JULIE LAGHI: Sure, what we do every annually is this cultural festival. So for us, it is to promote our culture, our heritage, and basically to promote the awareness of the Asian ethnic society, or communities rather. And for this, most of us, worked very hard to put this festival together. And it is, again, free admission. And we always depend on our supporters. And that's how we are able to have all these festivals.

ANGIE MILES: So, we've talked about economic contributions. We've talked about cultural contributions, but you also have a very special book that's been published. Tell us about that.

JULIE LAGHI: Yes. And I'm so proud to say this because AASOCV. We published this book, portraits of immigrant voices, and it was launched last year. And in this book, there is a subject included in there who is the Afghan immigrant, and his story is compelling. I also like to let everybody know that the funds from this book, but the sale of the funds of all the books goes through an Afghan and an Asian fund. And we have been really actually supporting the Afghans when they came to Richmond. We assisted them in housing, we assisted them in settling in. So in various ways, AASOCV we have taken a big role in assisting the immigrants that especially the Afghans of last year.

ANGIE MILES: The Asian American Society of Central Virginia. Thank you so much, Julie. Thank you for being with us.

JULIE LAGHI: Thank you, Angie for having me.


Angie Miles, Host/Producer, anchors and hosts VPM News Focal Point and special broadcasts.