A Sept. 12 Metro article about El Salvador opening a consulate in Prince William County included incorrect statistics for growth in the county's Salvadoran population. There were 5,392 Salvadorans in Prince William in 2000 and 10,948 in 2004. (Published 9/14/2005)
El Salvador is opening a consulate next to an Outback Steakhouse and near the popular Potomac Mills outlet mall in Woodbridge, a sign of the large numbers of Salvadorans who have migrated to Prince William County and other outer counties.
The consulate in El Salvador's embassy in the District overflows each day with an average of 200 people, half of them seeking passports to travel back home, said General Consul Ana Margarita Chavez, who heads the office. A satellite consulate in Woodbridge -- the first Salvadoran consulate to open in the suburbs -- will ease that crush on the D.C. office, Chavez said, and better meet the needs of the soaring Salvadoran population in the suburbs.
With more than 104,000 Salvadorans counted in the region during the 2000 Census, El Salvador was the source of nearly 13 percent of the region's foreign-born population -- the highest proportion from any country.
Woodbridge, a recent hot spot in the debate over services for day laborers -- many of them Hispanic -- and a favored home of Salvadorans for several years now, was the best site for the suburban consulate, Chavez said.
"When we were looking at Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, 40 percent of our total population belongs to Virginia, and Woodbridge has most of the people," Chavez said.
A record of visitors to the consulate in the District shows that 33 percent of those from Virginia come from Woodbridge and Manassas, she said.
The embassy also wanted a location accessible to citizens living in West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina, who also use the District consulate, she said.
The 4,000-square-foot office will open Oct. 1, two weeks after a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring Salvadoran President Elias Antonio Saca.
El Salvador's expansion into Prince William comes at a time when the suburbs are coping with the issues of day laborers, illegal immigration and the proliferation of Hispanic gangs, notably Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.
Last year, two dozen Latino day laborers, many naming El Salvador as their native land, were arrested and charged with loitering at a 7-Eleven in Woodbridge. Charges were dismissed against those who appeared in court after advocates negotiated a deal with 7-Eleven that allowed the men to stand in a restricted area outside the store until a permanent day laborers' center is established.
In Herndon, the Town Council's decision to open a publicly funded center where day laborers can wait for jobs or get services set off a furious debate that has extended into the gubernatorial campaign and has led to a lawsuit by a group seeking to block its opening.
Chavez said the embassy is interested in those issues. However, she said, the consulate's mission is to provide services to its citizens wherever they may be. And right now, it is in the suburbs or smaller cities that Salvadorans are seeking affordable housing and access to established Hispanic businesses.
The Woodbridge consulate is one of five that El Salvador is opening across the country this year. The others are in Duluth, Ga., Nogales, Ariz., Elizabeth, N.J., and Santa Ana, Calif., the last of which was reopened after being closed for two years. The openings bring the total number of Salvadoran consulates in the United States to 16.
Prince William welcomes its new, international addition, said Sean T. Connaughton (R), chairman of the Board of County Supervisors. "It is in recognition of the growing number of legal Salvadoran immigrants in Northern Virginia and Prince William County," he said.
Salvadorans have been the largest group of foreign-born residents for at least the past decade, said Jill Allmon, the county demographer.
In Prince William alone, the number of residents born in El Salvador jumped from 5,392 in 1990 to an estimated 10,948 in 2004, making them nearly 19 percent of the county's foreign-born population, she said. That does not count similar growth in Manassas and Manassas Park, which are independent cities within the county.
Residents need relief from the long lines at the consulate in the District, said Carlos A. Castro, who heads the Hispanic Business Council of the Prince William County Regional Chamber of Commerce. "I was in the District, and I told the cabdriver, 'Take me to the Salvadoran consulate. Do you know where it is?' He said, 'That's the place with the line around the corner,' " Castro said.