Latinos, Asians fuel population growth

Latino and Asian families continue to drive San Joaquín County population growth, according to U.S. census data released this month.

More than 55 percent of the county’s residents come from the two ethnic groups. In Stockton, almost 62 percent of the city is either Asian or Latino.

“In terms of this community and its diversity, Stockton is so rich and inviting,” said Inés Ruiz-Huston, coordinator of University of the Pacific’s Latino community outreach program.“It is the future. It is the future of the United States.”

Since 2000, San Joaquin has been a “minority-majority” county. The latest census data shows the nation with more than 300 such counties.

The county's overall growth rate of 1.7 percent far outpaces state and national rate of 1.1 percent. The California Department of Finance shows that rate accelerating to more than 2 percent as soon as 2015 and staying that way for the next two decades.

Projections call for 810,000 residents by 2020 and more than 1 million by 2030. The Latino population, at just under 300,000 today, is expected to lead that growth — more through birth rates than immigration.Latino- and Asian-owned businesses also continue to thrive and help drive the county’s economy. More than one out of every six firms is owned by a Latino, and that number is more than one out of every five in Stockton.

Census figures covering 2010 to July 2012 show that more than 100,000 Asians live in San Joaquín County. Non-Latino whites make up 35.4 percent of the county’s overall population and 22.9 percent of Stockton.

“I love it here,” said 28-year-old Reyna Menera, an early-morning grocery shopper at Rancho San Miguel. “I like the stores, the people, the town.”

She was carefully picking out tomatoes for a soup recipe inside the store’s brightly lit, colorful vegetable section at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Airport Way.Menera is a graduate of Weber Institute, and she attended Edison High School. She is a married mother of two and was born in Tijuana, México.She plans to continue her education at San Joaquín Delta College and hopes to work in the criminal-justice system one day.

“Another reason I love it here is the opportunity for schooling,” she said. “I graduated from high school with honors. I’m proud of that. I’m not done yet.”Ruiz-Huston, 41, came to Pacific from a similar position at the University of Florida. She is originally from Portland, Ore.

“There is a richness of diversity here and a unique dynamic,” she said. “Everyone contributes to a community that is a mecca for a lot of different businesses and organizations. This is a great test-pilot community.“It’s time for our nation to celebrate and embrace diversity.”

Carlos Valenzuela moved to Stockton 10 years ago to buy a home and raise his family. He came from the northern Mexican state of Sonora.“I like it here,” he said. “I think it is a good place. I have a good job and good friends. We play soccer at McKinley Park.

“We stay away from the bad guys. We do things during the day, not at night. No parties. My neighborhood is good now, the police come around more.”Valenzuela, 40, works in landscaping, and his job takes him throughout Northern California. He enjoys coming home to Stockton.“I like it. My family is here. My friends. How’s my English? Good, eh?”

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