March 2, 2011 | The Hillsboro Argus | Original Article

Oregon's Melting Pot

The contents of the Great Oregon Melting Pot are bubbling away in Washington County, and the roux is the county seat of Hillsboro.

According to not-so-surprising data for 2010 released last week by the U.S. Department of the Census, Hillsboro and Washington County have experienced increasing racial diversity to go along with a great deal of overall population growth over the last decade.

Hillsboro’s population increased by more than 20,000, from 70,186 in 2000 to an official count of 91,611 in 2010. Washington County’s population increased from 445,342 to 529,710.

In addition to an increase of almost 13,000 in its population of whites, Hillsboro’s population of African-American population more than doubled, from 858 to 1,812, and its Asian population grew from 4,585 in 2000 to 7,872 in 2010.

Washington County’s Asian population nearly doubled, from 26,200 to 45,755, with an increase of about 2,000 in Beaverton.

People of Latino or Hispanic origin continued to be the largest minority in the city, county and state. As in the 2000 Census, Washington County had the largest population (83,320) of any county in the state, trailed by Multnomah County (80,138) despite that county’s much larger total population of 735,334.

Hillsboro continued to lead all cities in the state in terms of percentage of persons of Latino and Hispanic origin, rising from 13,262, or 18.5 percent, in 2000, to 19,984, or nearly 22 percent, in 2010. Next highest is Salem, at 19 percent.

Hillsboro Police Department Cmdr. Allen Zaugg has been watching Hillsboro grow since joining the force in 1984. Unfortunately, he says, there can be some culture clashes between people of different races, particularly if they come from different countries.

“People are people, but it comes down to learning to communicate with a different cultural group,” Zaugg said. “We’ve had to overcome some distrust issues. Some groups can be offended by the way we’re used to communicating.”

Economists say Oregon may suffer a shortage in high-skill positions as baby boomers retire in substantial numbers and the overall population remains stagnant. The Latino population is predicted to increase from 15 to 30 percent nationwide by 2050.

This shortage could be made up by better educational opportunities for Latinos and Hispanics, who make up 32.3 percent of the Hillsboro School District student body. More than 3,400 students of various ethnic backgrounds are in the English Language Learner and Migrant Education program.

Edward Tabet-Cubero, the director of the program, says the learning benefits go both ways.

“Our Spanish-speaking students also possess an asset that is helping several of our English-speaking students, that is the Spanish language they bring from home,” Tabet-Cubero says. “In our two-way dual language programs at W.L. Henry Elementary, Minter Bridge Elementary and South Meadows Middle School, English and Spanish speaking students are developing high levels of proficiency in both languages through their classroom studies and interactions with one another.”