A JOB PAYING $7.50 an hour is a low wage to many Howard countians, but it's good money for an increasing number of residents settling in Maryland's suburbs. Work in construction and landscaping are a step up the ladder for people who once earned the minimum wage in California vineyards.
Plenty of work is available in suburban Maryland for immigrants -- legal and illegal. Employers are happy to find anyone willing to mow lawns around modern-day mansions and at apartment and townhouse communities.
The attraction of jobs-rich suburbia has pushed the state's foreign-born population one-third higher than it was in 1990.
Foreign immigation is up 17 percent in Anne Arundel, 35 percent in Carroll, 11 percent in Harford, 25 percent in Howard and 24 percent in Baltimore County, as well as 19 percent in Baltimore City.
Immigration poses challenges for government and employers. Human services agencies are changing to accommodate people from various cultures, from more bilingual police and fire employees to increased use of outside translation services for emergencies and social services. Howard has deputized a Spanish-speaking woman to perform weddings for Hispanic couples.
"People are just beginning to realize that when you offer human services, speaking another language and understanding other cultures are imperative," said Kinza Schuyler, head of the Columbia-based Foreign-born Information and Referral Network.
Immigration also brings the challenge of enforcement. According an estimate based on U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service figures, about one of six foreign-born Maryland residents who have not become citizens are here illegally.
Employers desperate for workers must be careful to obtain proper documentation from non-citizens applying for jobs.
Although jobs are drawing immigrants to suburbia, they are likely to stay for the schools and other aspects of life that have attracted native-born residents in large numbers for decades. Communities outside Baltimore and Washington must keep adjusting to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Pub Date: 5/09/97