- Report Published -
|Acclimation of Virginia's Foreign-Born Population|
|Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission|
|HJR 604 (Regular Session, 2003)|
|House Joint Resolution 604 of the 2003 General Assembly directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to study the acclimation of the Commonwealth’s ethnically diverse population. In accordance with the study mandate, this executive summary of study findings is being submitted to the Division of Legislative Automated Systems (DLAS). The full report resulting from the acclimation study is also being submitted to DLAS for publication as a document and distribution to the Governor and the General Assembly. |
Between 1990 and 2000, Virginia experienced a substantial increase in the number of its foreign-born residents, far outstripping previous periods of growth. As of the 2000 Census, there were over 570,000 foreign-born residents in Virginia, representing eight percent of the population. While two-thirds of Virginia’s foreign-born population reside in Northern Virginia, there have been a growing number of foreign-born people settling in other portions of the State in recent years.
Overall, this review found that Virginia’s foreign-born population is an integral part of the Virginia economy. Constituting approximately 12 percent of the State’s civilian labor force and 44 percent of Virginia’s labor force growth over the last decade, Virginia's foreign-born participate in every major sector of the State’s economy. Their labor force participation helps keep the State competitive in industries such as agriculture and poultry processing, supports tourism through substantial participation in the hospitality industry, and supports the State’s growth in high tech fields, among others.
Despite this positive impact, the study also identified some service needs and costs specifically associated with the foreign-born population. JLARC staff found that there are three primary needs that are unique to or disproportionately experienced by the foreign-born population: access to opportunities to improve English proficiency, access to services and information in their native languages, and access to affordable health care. While the foreign-born, in general, do not appear to use major governmental services at disproportionate rates, the State and local governments do incur costs in attempting to meet the unique needs of this population, particularly for English language instruction and interpretation services. Further, in the health care area, use of services by the foreign-born, particularly at local health departments, appears to be increasing, and in some cases is creating a strain on local service delivery.
Throughout this study JLARC staff have identified activities that individual State agencies and local governments are undertaking to help immigrants in their adjustment to their new communities. However, overall the approaches taken have led to inefficiencies and added costs. This report identifies a number of possible options for more effectively and efficiently addressing the needs of Virginia’s foreign-born population, as well as assisting local governments in their efforts.