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Census 2020: Todos Debemos ser Contados

On April 1st, 2020 the 24th decennial census of the United States will begin a count of all persons residing in the U.S., including non-citizens. It is very important that all persons are counted, as the results are used to ensure legislative representation and that government resources are distributed fairly. Census data are used to distribute federal funds to states, local governments, and families. The results are also used to guide community decision-making regard­ing schools, housing, healthcare services, and other investment areas. Populations that are accu­rately counted are more likely to receive their fair share of government assistance.
 

Rubén Martinez, Ph.D.

 

It is important that the 2020 Census fairly and accurately count the rapidly growing Latino community. Latinos already are the second largest population in the country, yet they are underserved because they are under­counted in the Census. Without having the proper representation and access to essential government resources, entire Latino communities are neg­atively affected and overall health rates, school and health programs, to name a few, could decrease. Many of the benefits that underserved communities receive, whether it is food, education­al benefits, or healthcare, may be reduced, if not lost, if the Census does not accurately count all persons in what are called hard-to-count communities.

Census data will be collected via the Internet (2020 marks the first year in which data will be collected this way), as well as by phone, by hard-copy questionnaire, and by census takers visiting homes. However, Latinos have historically been undercounted and, as a result, their communities do not receive the political representation or the resources they deserve. In 2020, undercounts of Latino communities may occur because some, especially elders, do not have access to the Internet, members fear having their personal information disclosed to immigration services, or they do not see themselves as members of the household in which they reside. As a result, they are considered “hard-to-count” populations. All efforts must be made to ensure that all Latinos are counted in the upcoming Census 2020, even if they are not citizens. Otherwise, our communities will not receive the representation and funding from federal, state, and local governments that oth­er communities receive.

Vulnerable members of Latino communities may be particularly hesitant to participate in the Census this year as a result of the Trump administration’s harsh immigration policies, as well as his failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the Census. Though a citizenship question will not appear on the Census, news of the administration’s push to include such a question may reduce the willingness of certain immigrant populations to participate in the Census. It is crucial that immigrants understand the complete confidentiality of their answers to questions on the census questionnaire. The Census Bureau is required by a 1947 law to keep abso­lutely confidential individual information, which cannot be released to external agencies or organizations, until 72 years after it was collected. That will 2092.

In order to achieve an accurate count of Latino communities in the 2020 Census, it is imperative that community leaders, funders, and civic lead­ers promote the inclusion and participation of Latinos in the Census by making Latino communities aware of the risks all of Michigan is likely to suffer if the Census undercounts them. Due to already limited funding of the Census Bureau, many activities that promote participation by undercounted populations in the census may be reduced, thereby perpetuating the undercount of Latinos. To avoid this, there are many helpful resources in Spanish on the websites of the Julian Samora Research Institute (JSRI; https://jsri.msu.edu/census-information-center) and the In­ter-University Program for Latino Research (IUPLR; https://iuplr.org/). Participation by the Latino com­munity in Census 2020 will ensure that the Latino population is better represented in national and state legislatures and in federally funded programs.

¡ Todos debemos ser contados!

Rubén Martinez, Ph.D.

Julian Samora Research Institute

 
 
 
Copyright © 1989 to 2020 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 03/24/20 16:15:05 -0800.

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