By Tae Chong
According to the 2017 U.S. Census, there are 14,627 foreign-born people living in Portland, Westbrook, South Portland, and Lewiston. But this number may not accurately count Maine’s ESL, multilingual, and multiracial population. U.S. Census numbers only count those who are foreign born. A truer picture of Maine’s ESL, multilingual, multiracial population is a survey of the language spoken at home. A multicultural, multiracial child of a foreign-born parent is not counted in the foreign-born category of the Census. Based on school enrollment data, 33% of students in the Portland, Westbrook, South Portland, and Lewiston schools are multicultural and multiracial. Therefore, many of these kids would not be counted in the foreign-born population.
The 2017 U.S. Census calculates that there are 22,400 members of ESL families living in these cities. However, this number does not count the number of children under age 5 because they are not counted in the language-spoken-at -home surveys. If 33% of the public-school system is multiracial, multilingual, then at least 33% of children under the age of 5 most likely come from ESL, multicultural, multiracial populations. A more accurate number of ESL, foreign population in these four cities would be 25,500, a large disparity between foreign-born and ESL families. We should be concentrating on this higher number as the more accurate population of Maine’s ESL, multicultural, and multilingual population.
Tae Chong, Manager of Social Enterprise and Workforce at Catholic Charities Maine.