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Editorial: Diversity Growing

Tune in to our series on immigration.

This week, Centre View and Connection Newspapers kicks off a series about immigration, diversity and the growing population of foreign-born residents in Fairfax County. County reporter Victoria Ross opens with a story that captures vignettes and statistics of the changing population.

It is a topic consistent with the original Thanksgiving story.

More than 28 percent of Fairfax County's population is foreign born; that's 317,000 residents.

Consider Yesuf Beshir from Ethiopia, who two years ago settled in Springfield and now works for a government contractor. In May, he became an American citizen. “The main thing here is democracy, the right to vote,” Beshir said.

These residents include nearly 20,000 who are self-employed business owners, truly job creators, large and small. One of these is Shami Walia who emigrated from India in 1982, and now owns Burke Cigar Shop, a popular cigar lounge that's become a neighborhood fixture. One part of our series will look at the business impacts of the foreign-born population.

Fairfax County Public Schools are harbingers of change: 38,760 Fairfax County elementary school students, that is 44 percent of all elementary school students in public schools here, spoke a language other than English at home as of May 2009. And between them, they speak more than 100 different languages. Another part of our series will look at the challenges and opportunities in Fairfax County Public Schools.

Consider Hutchison Elementary in Herndon, where 63 percent of students have limited English. And Crestwood Elementary in Springfield, where 68 percent of students have limited English. At Lynbrook Elementary, also in Springfield, 74 percent of students have limited English. At Mount Vernon Woods, in Mount Vernon, 52 percent of students have limited English. At Dogwood Elementary in Reston, 56 percent of students have limited English.

Tune in and let us know what you think.

You can submit a letter to the editor at http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/contact/letter/

Mary Kimm, mkimm@connectionnewspapers.com