Immigrant Groups and Local Government Salute Each Other

December 4, 2011; Source: ChantillyPatchAsians are America’s fastest growing minority group, increasing in number by 43 percent during the last decade. Close to 15 million people – 5 percent of the total population – identify as Asian. Another 2.6 million  say they are part Asian. Immigration accounts for most of this growth. Asians are the second largest immigrant group behind Latinos, with most coming from the Philippines, India, and China.

In the D.C. Metro Area which encompasses Washington, D.C. and nearby suburbs in Maryland and Virginia, 9.2 percent of residents are Asian, most of them foreign-born. In Fairfax County however, close to 190,000 individuals or 17.5 percent of its residents are of Asian descent.

Last Saturday, the county’s first Asian American Appreciation Day was celebrated at the Fairfax Government Center.  Hosted by Voice of Vietnamese Americans (VVA), a nonprofit that primarily serves the Viet community in the region, the event recognized both the contributions of Asian Americans and the support local officials have given the Asian American community over the years.

“We wanted to have the coalitions of Asian-Americans come together for something like this for a while. We wanted to appreciate the leadership here because we feel very lucky to be in Fairfax County to enjoy the kind of stability the county provides,” Genie Nguyen, president of the VVA, told the Chantilly Patch.

Elected officials also expressed their appreciation of the Asian American community.

“In Fairfax County Public Schools, our Asian-American community is a vibrant and growing part of our educational system. It’s so important to recognize the heritage and traditions that our Asian American families and students bring,” said School Board Member Sandy Evans who received an award for Best Education Leader.

The mutual recognition and support of immigrant-serving nonprofits and elected officials is important for any community. Community-based organizations that serve immigrant groups and help newcomers integrate need the funding and policy support of government officials and agencies. Governments in turn benefit from civically engage immigrant communities. They also gain from the entrepreneurial spirit prevalent among immigrants. In Fairfax County, 17 percent of businesses are Asian owned and the D.C. metro area is one of the three areas in the country to have the largest number of Asian-owned firms. – Erwin de Leon