ANNAPOLIS — People from El Salvador comprise a large portion of Maryland’s growing Hispanic community, census data released Thursday shows.
The U.S. Census Bureau data shows there are 123,789 people from the Central American nation who now live in Maryland, representing 2.1 percent of the state’s population. Hispanics now make up 8.2 percent of the state’s population.
More than half of the state’s growth by about 477,000 people between 2000 and 2010 resulted from increases in the Hispanic population. The new census figures show that 3.4 percent of the state’s Latinos come from Central America, mostly El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. People from Mexico make up about 1.5 percent of Maryland’s population.
People from South American nations make up about 1.1 percent.
Nancy Lyall, legal coordinator with Mexicans Without Borders in Virginia’s Prince William County, said the county’s tough stance on immigration likely contributed to Hispanics moving to Maryland. The county’s immigration policy, which took effect in 2008, requires police to check the legal status of everyone taken into custody for an alleged local or state crime.
“We know a lot of them moved to Alexandria and Arlington, but I’m sure a lot of them also went to Maryland,” Lyall said.
Lyall also noted that Virginia stopped accepting a federal work permit as proof of legal status when obtaining a driver’s license, making it harder for some immigrants to get them.
Bishop Francisco Gonzalez, auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington who has been working on Hispanic outreach efforts for about 40 years, said the archdiocese now offers Mass in Spanish at 38 churches on weekends. The archdiocese includes Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, where many of the state’s Hispanic residents live.
“The number of Hispanics is increasing in part for two main reasons. They continue to come from Latin America, and second they have larger families then the Anglo-Saxon community, so the numbers increase,” Gonzalez said.
The census also showed a 51 percent increase in the number of people who responded that they are living in same-sex couple relationships over the past decade. There were 16,987 same-sex couples in the state, up from 11,243 in 2000.
“All of the evidence is that the bulk of the increase is due to increased willingness to report on the part of same-sex couples,” said Gary Gates, a demographer with the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he will sponsor legislation in the 2012 legislative session legalizing same-sex marriage. Gay marriage legislation passed the Maryland Senate this year, but stalled in the House of Delegates.