Foreign-Born Fuel Area Growth

Foreign-born fuel area growth

By Natasha Altamirano
The Washington Times
September 13, 2007

The latest population statistics show immigrants are fueling population growth in Maryland and Virginia.

The percentage of foreign-born people in Prince William County site of heated debates on problems associated with illegal aliens nearly doubled from 2000 to 2006, according to census data released yesterday.

In 2000, 11.5 percent of the county's population was foreign-born, compared with 21.9 percent in 2006. The number of immigrants in the county who are not U.S. citizens increased from 58.4 percent in 2000 to 63.9 percent in 2006.

Nearly half of county residents who speak a language other than English at home speak English “less than very well,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

“The impact on schools in a place like Prince William is enormous,” said Steven A. Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies.

For schools already attempting to manage rapid growth, an influx of children who don't speak English can further strain resources, he said.

“Given concerns about issues like congestion, traffic, sprawl and loss of open space, this does raise questions about how successful the metro area will be in managing these problems,” Mr. Camarota said.

Census data found that immigrants in other counties also have English-proficiency problems: 48 percent in Fairfax County, 42.5 percent in Prince George's County, 42 percent in Loudoun County and 40 percent in Montgomery County.

Loudoun County also had a sharp increase in its foreign-born population from 11.3 percent in 2000 to 21 percent in 2006. The percentage of immigrants in other Virginia and Maryland jurisdictions increased slightly, but in Arlington County that population decreased from 27.8 percent in 2000 to 23.3 percent in 2006.

Among immigrants, the percentage of naturalized U.S. citizens increased in all D.C.-area jurisdictions except Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Prince William counties.

Though the percent of immigrants in Anne Arundel County is low (6 percent) compared with neighboring counties, more than half are not U.S. citizens.

The Census Bureau provides information on naturalized U.S. citizens and noncitizens, but does not distinguish between those who are in the country legally or illegally, a spokeswoman said.

There are an estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens in the country.

Regardless of legal status, immigrants are changing the region, Mr. Camarota said.

“Immigration is adding, every decade, about 600,000 people to the counties that comprise the Washington area,” he said. “What does that mean for the quality of life in the Washington area? It's a profound question, and it's something we have control over if we choose to exercise that.”