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In Pr. William, minorities have quickly become the new majority

By Jennifer Buske
Friday, February 4, 2011; A18

Prince William County's Hispanic and Asian populations nearly tripled in the past decade and the number of blacks doubled, transforming the county into a majority minority jurisdiction, according to data released Thursday by the Census Bureau.

The county's overall population grew by 40 percent, topping 400,000. Almost a third of those residents are under the age of 18, crowding schools in Prince William's fast-growing western end. Many of the newcomers are immigrants or the children of immigrants.

In some Linton Hall elementary schools, "there are 60 different languages being spoken," said Prince William County Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Brentsville).

Non-Hispanic whites now make up just under half the county's population. In 2000, they accounted for 65 percent of the residents.

By contrast, the percentage of Hispanics soared over the past decade. They now account for about 20 percent of the population compared with 2000, when Hispanics made up about 10 percent.

Their numbers might have been even higher if the Prince William Board of County Supervisors hadn't begun requiring police officers to check the immigration status of anyone arrested. The controversial policy prompted thousands of Hispanics to move out of the county between 2007 and 2009, according to recent studies by the University of Virginia and the Migration Policy Institute.

The new census numbers found that the county's black and multiracial populations have doubled.

Prince William's western suburbs experienced dizzying growth over the past decade, with Linton Hall increasing by 28,000 residents and Gainesville by 7,200. On the opposite end of the county, Woodbridge lost 87 percent of its population, according to the data.

County supervisors have passed various resolutions in the past decade to stall growth until more schools and roads could be built. Residential growth has been halted in the western end until three new schools open this fall.

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