The State of West Virginia's Immigrants

February 18, 2020

West Virginia’s immigrants come from all over the world and while a small share of the populations, they are broadly represented throughout the state’s workforce and economy. But a fuller conversation about immigrants tends to be overshadowed by the controversy in the U.S. around immigration reform. This conversation all too often tends to paint immigrants as a homogeneous group. The conversation ought to reflect an informed understanding of this dynamic population, its diverse contributions to the economy and the challenges immigrants face.

This report attempts to have that deeper conversation, reflecting on the history of immigrants in West Virginia, the challenges they have faced, how they’ve become enmeshed in the fabric of the state, and their role in the state today.

For the full report and accompanying data, please click here

Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States

February 14, 2020

The Migration Policy Institute has compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked immigration-related questions, drawing on the most authoritative, current data available about the 44.7 million immigrants residing in the United States as of 2018. Among the questions it answers: Who is immigrating to the United States today and from where? How many people arrive in the country through the various immigration channels? Do they speak English? Where do they live and work? How many immigrants become U.S. citizens? How many apply and receive asylum in the United States? Click here to read more.

Resources for Immigrants in West Virginia

September 26, 2019

The following documents are resources for immigrants. Click on the titles below to load a PDF, which is downloadable and printable.

Immigrant Resources Statewide in WV

Know Your Rights: ICE Agents at Work or at Your Home (English and Spanish)

Bills Block Immigrants Seeking to Make WV Their Home

March 5, 2019
Several bills have been introduced into the legislature this session that cause challenges for immigrants, including HB 2067, HB 2808, HB 2664, and HB 2685.  To read about the coalition that has formed against these bills, click here. To read a letter to Roger Hanshaw (WV Speaker of the House), click here.

Making College Education a Reality for Undocumented Students

February 7, 2018

This guide focuses on making a college education a reality for undocumented students by detailing scholarship opportunities, advocacy groups and enrollment tips.  Check out Expert Advice and Resources for Undocumented College Students at .

DACA Phaseout Information for Students

February 7, 2018

This guide focuses on the administration's recent decision to roll back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. It includes frequently asked questions about the change, describes the rights undocumented students have if questioned by ICE, and includes a directory for students of resources with additional up-to-date information on policies.  See Students' Guide to DACA Phaseout at .

American Immigration Council Facts Sheets and Resources

October 7, 2017
The American Immigration Council has many short fact sheets and other easy-to-use resources which can help you update your own knowledge of US immigration law/issues and help in explaining some of the complexities of US immigration that complicate the lives of so many of our students. 

"Why Don't They Just Get In Line? There is No Line for Many Unauthorized Immigrants."

Another of the Council's short fact sheets, "How the United States Immigration System Works", can also be very helpful in understanding or explaining the basics.

TESOL Position Statement on Immigration Policy

October 7, 2017
TESOL released a new position statement on immigration policy and reform in the United States in September, 2017.  The one page document is strong in its rejection of biased, punitive and fear-inducing policies and concise in listing policy recommendations which are "fair, equitable, and realistic solutions that treat all human beings with respect."  The statement can be a powerful tool for WVTESOL members who want to prepare themselves and their students to advocate effectively, whether in a faculty room conversation with a colleague or in a more public way.  Click here to read the statement.

ACLU Information

April 29, 2017

Joseph Cohen of WV ACLU   presented on immigrant rights at the April 2017 WVTESOL conference. Here is a link to one ACLU "Know Your Rights" resource.  If you have questions about particular situations or want to organize an informational ACLU event in your community, please contact Mr. Cohen at

WVTESOL Statement Supporting International Students and Intensive English Programs in West Virginia

March 9, 2017

West Virginia institutions of higher education enrolled thousands of international students during the 2015-2016 academic year for both short and long-term study, bringing substantial, but often under-recognized, educational and economic benefits to the state.  West Virginia Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (WVTESOL) is working to help inform our state’s education and business leaders about the importance of continuously growing and supporting our state's high-quality international student programs.

Students who come from abroad to study in West Virginia bring cultural diversity, fresh perspectives, and opportunities for global connections to our campuses. They enrich the educational experiences of local students and add energy and diversity to campus and community life. Local students are able to collaborate with peers from around the world and develop a multicultural perspective which will serve them well in today’s global economy. In turn, the international students, the best and brightest from around the world, learn first-hand about the culture, people and values of the United States. The mutual understanding and relationships they walk away with are of benefit here and in their home countries, a jump-start for initiating global business prospects, and bolstering educational and cultural connections well into the future.

International students, specifically those in Intensive English Programs (IEPs) at WV higher education institutions, also bring significant economic advantages to the state. The 2016 annual “Open Doors” report from the Institute of International Education placed the number of international students at WVU, Marshall, the University of Charleston, Davis and Elkins University, and Fairmont State University at 4,150, an increase of 29%, and estimated these students’ West Virginia expenditures at $115,390,627.  The vast majority of these funds came to WV from outside the United States.

WVTESOL members know firsthand how much international students contribute to our educational institutions, local communities and to the state’s economy. We urge you to join us in working to make certain that our state continues to be sought out by international students because it is a welcoming place with high quality International and Intensive English programs, programs which bring invaluable educational, cultural and economic benefits to West Virginians.


Institute of International Education, Fact Sheets and Infographics (2016)

From TESOL, English USA, and UCIEP: Joint Statement on Supporting International Students and Intensive English Programs in the United States

January 19, 2017
More than one million international students from 175 countries attend colleges and universities in the United States, with over 100,000 of those attending short-term intensive English programs (IEPs). As organizations committed to advancing excellence and equity in English language education, TESOL International Association (TESOL), EnglishUSA, and the Consortium of University and College Intensive English Programs (UCIEP) strongly affirm their support for these students and the IEPs that help them attain their academic, professional, and personal goals.

The United States has long been a global leader in international education and cultural exchange, providing a welcoming environment for students from around the world who come to learn about culture and language, exchange ideas, and build a sense of identity and cultural awareness. Unfortunately, the uncertain political and economic climate could make the United States seem less likely to offer international students a safe place to learn and grow. That uncertainty, however, underscores the importance of providing these students with access to IEPs.

IEPs enable international students to develop their English language proficiency, and they also provide social and cultural benefits. They enable students to collaborate with their peers from around the world, which fosters the respect for diversity and multiculturalism that are fundamental to the global economy. While studying English, international students also learn about U.S. culture, and through their interactions they gain firsthand knowledge of the United States, its people, and its values. Through the relationships that an IEP encourages, American and international students can develop a mutual understanding, and international students carry that understanding back to their home countries.

IEPs and international students also bring economic advantages. In 2015, international students added more than $36 billion to the U.S. economy, a $4 billion increase over the previous year.* In addition, these students bring immense intellectual capital. U.S. colleges and universities are the envy of the world, largely because they attract the best and brightest students from all parts of the globe, students who lead cutting-edge research projects and develop innovations that benefit the U.S. economy. As the number of international students studying in the United States continues to grow, IEPs contribute significantly to state and local economies, which helps to sustain economic growth across the country.

TESOL International Association, EnglishUSA, and UCIEP stand together in support of international students and IEPs. Successful IEPs provide opportunities for collaboration across national boundaries, they foster respect for diversity, and bring economic advantages that encourage growth and innovation. It is vital that the United States continue to welcome international students and scholars, who enrich campus communities and create opportunities for greater cross-cultural understanding. We urge the U.S. government to support international students by facilitating access to high-quality IEPs. The leadership of TESOL, EnglishUSA, and UCIEP, stands ready, as always, to assist in this important endeavor.

*For more detailed information on the economic impact of international students in the United States, please see the NAFSA International Student Economic Value Tool.

A shareable version of this document is available here.

English as the Official Language Bill

March 2016

Efforts to stop the 2015 session of the WV Legislature from passing an English Only law were successful. Although the bill passed easily in the House, it did not make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  However, during the 2016 session, the bill made it to Governor Tomblin's desk where he signed it. The text of the bill is available here

WVTESOL maintains its position that this legislation is potentially damaging and suggests the following message for your communications with lawmakers:

A WV "English as the official language" law is unnecessary and limits the flow of information which benefits all in the state. It could harm our state by dampening beneficial diversity and multicultural programs.   WV educators, librarians, health, agriculture, public safety workers, and other state employees should be encouraged to communicate in ways that are most effective.  Why do we need a law to limit the tools state workers can use to educate parents about the benefits of reading to their children, encourage all to exercise, conserve energy, or undertake any other initiative to improve life in our state?

Advocacy Update - April 2015

Click here for a PDF of the latest Advocacy Update.

WVTESOL Position Statement on Access to Higher Education for Immigrant Students

Approved by WVTESOL Board November 11, 2014

West Virginia law and higher education policy bar discrimination on the basis of national origin in our colleges.  We are proud that our state recognizes that promoting higher education and encouraging all students to strive for it benefits everyone.  Unfortunately, WVTESOL has recently found that existing WV law and policies are not always followed, probably because some educators are unaware of WV law and policy regarding immigrant students who are not citizens or may not be lawful permanent residents.  This includes students who have federal DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status. 

Examples of discrimination we have found include the following

  1. An undocumented WV high school graduate was open about his status at a September 2014 WV college fair. Only one WV college told him he could apply. Others gave no or wrong information.  One representative insisted applicants must be citizens for one year before applying.
  2. A WVTESOL member reported that teachers and counselors at her county high school have for years been unofficially indicating to students that, if undocumented, they cannot go to college.   
  3. A WV educator reported that a high school student without an SSN was denied the right to take a high school class which granted college credit because of immigration status.
  4.  A WV honor graduate who has DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was told by the local community college that she could attend but could not get college credit or a degree. She accepted what she was told and gave up on going to college.  Many other applicants who get that message or similar ones from trusted authorities like teachers, counselors and admissions staff likely have given up as well.

Among WVTESOL members are many of the PK-12 ESL teachers whose job includes helping immigrant students learn English and academic content. When these students achieve academically and graduate, the WV Human Rights Act ( gives them the same right to higher education as their classmates, even if they are not US citizens.  Unfortunately, 40% of WV educators responding to a recent WVTESOL survey believe that undocumented students cannot go to college.  Another 44% said they don’t know.  This level of mis-information can have negative consequences from the earliest grades - lowered academic expectations, guidance away from college preparatory classes, and less college counseling and application support. 

There are students in WV schools today and WV high school graduates who have been and are continuing to get the message from educators and state higher education institutions that college is not for students like them.  WVTESOL can work to inform its members, but only the WV Department of Education and the Higher Education Policy Commission have the authority and capacity needed to reach and inform all of the “messengers.”  WVTESOL’s position is that an immediate and on-going effort by state education leaders is needed to effectively inform staff, parents and students that state law and policy protect the right of every WV student to equal access to higher education without discrimination on the basis of national origin.  

ELL Rights

  • Ensuring English Learner Students Can Participate Meaningfully and Equally in Educational Programs

  • Information for Limited English Proficient (LEP) Parents and Guardians and for Schools and School Districts that Communicate with Them

  • Schools’ Civil Rights Obligations to English Learner Students and Limited English Proficient Parents

Access to Higher Education for Immigrant Students

U.S. Department of Education resource page for students who are newly arrived in the United States, including resources and articles related to
  • immigrant students and undocumented students who might be requesting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
  • guidance and affirmation of the obligations of states and school districts under Federal law to provide education to all K-12 students
  • opportunities for immigrant students in higher education

College Board resource for advising undocumented students, including
  • considerations regarding admission policies, tuition and institutional financial aid
  • guidance as to how a counselor might assist with the advising process

Questions? Contact the Office of Federal Programs at 304-558-0200.