The Hispanic population in the United States has exploded since the 2000 census, growing to an estimated 50-million. But several million are in the country illegally and reluctant to fill out official forms. A coalition of Latino
groups backed by the Census Bureau has launched an effort to ensure a full and accurate 2010 Census count of the nation’s largest minority group.
At a press conference at Houston city hall, I asked councilmember James Rodriguez what role the city will play in the count.
“We have a huge role in this, Pat. The mayor has made this a priority. We’re funding about 500-thousand dollars of grass roots efforts. We’re hiring a consultant to go door to door and to reach the hard to count communities. We also have several committees charged with fund raising, with getting volunteers and organizing the communities. So it’s a pretty big effort from the city of Houston.”
The campaign is spearheaded by NALEO, The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Claudia Ortega-Hogue heads the group’s Houston’s educational fund. She says language barriers persist, and the foreclosure crisis has left many Hispanic families without a mailing address.
“In all aspects of the work that we do, we found that Latinos are ready to participate, but there is a lack of information and what that means sometimes it provokes fear. But, we have to make an effort as an organization, to really let them know that this is something that they cannot be scared of.”
Eduardo Guity is with the U.S. Census Bureau. He says under the Constitution, the census must count everyone living in the country, legally or illegally, once every ten years.
“Peoples’ answers are actually respected by law and protected by law, and of course it’s easy. We’re only talking ten questions you know, ten minutes to fill out. These are efforts to try to make sure that we get maximum participation.”
PH: “Is the undercount significant for this area?”
Eduardo Guity: “Any undercount of any community is significant, and the more that we can minimize the undercount, the more fair share of over 400 billion dollars we’re able to get to this area.”
The Census Bureau is spending over 300-million dollars on advertising in 28-different languages.
PH, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.