With the 2020 census upcoming, Latino Americans worry that they will not be fully counted and will therefore be deprived of federal aid.
As the United States prepares for its 2020 Census, a decennial survey of the residents of the country, rights groups are worried that minority populations - especially Latinos - are being undercounted, and thereby underserved by the national government.
The census, which involves tactics such as surveyors knocking on doors to ask residents about aspects of their lives, is used to produce statistics on residents of the US and the country’s economy.
These statistics cover facts such as the ethnic composition of communities and cities, their income and access to important services like education and healthcare.
The survey is used to help lawmakers and bureaucrats allocate roughly $400bn in federal and state funding to improve education, healthcare, public transportation and more.
But some groups are undercounted, due to reasons such as a difficult with English, the language in which the survey is often conducted, among other factors.
Specifically, “Latinos have been undercounted for decades, disadvantaging their families, communities, and neighborhoods” the Leadership Conference Education Fund, a part of an umbrella organisation for US civil and human rights groups, said in a factsheet on the survey.
A new initiative aims to register a historic number of Latinos in Texas in the upcoming 2020 United States census, a count of the people living in the world’s most powerful country.
“The Census is a once in a decade opportunity to win our communities the resources and representation we deserve, and in 2020 we don’t intend to leave anyone uncounted”, Antonio Arellano, interim executive director of Jolt Initiative, a Texas-based nonprofit that focuses on the needs of Latino youths, said in a statement delivered to TRT World.
Effects of undercounting
The importance of accurate counts – and thereby accurate distribution of funds – for Latino communities impacts their health and safety.
Latinos account for about 16.7 percent of the US’ 329m population, according to the Census Bureau. But according to their statistics, 1.5 percent of Latinos were undercounted in 2010, when the last census was conducted.
This can pose threats to access to healthcare, which is already serious concern for Latinos, according to the Health Initiative of the Americas (HIAB), a programme of the University of California Berkeley that produces “action-oriented research”.
HIAB claims roughly 19 percent of adult Latinos in the US are uninsured, amounting to at least 15.5m people under 65, the “highest uninsured rate among any racial or ethnic group”.
Barriers include a “lack of knowledge regarding available services, cost of health services, barriers related to differences in culture, language”, HIAB continued.
These issues could be compounded, as census data helps allocate funds for hospitals and health government insurance plans for lower-income families and children.
The Center for Health Journalism said that on a “local level,” undercounting “means less federal funding for hospital services and nutrition and health programs assisting hard-to-count communities.”
Jolt and other groups have expressed worries about Latinos showing up for the census due to concerns regarding Latino groups being undercounted in 2020 have elevated since the administration of US President Donald Trump attempted to introduce a “citizenship question” on the short-form survey given to all respondents.
Critics said the question was an attempt by the Trump administration, which has deported record numbers of Latinos through nationwide “raids” in cities with large Hispanic populations, to intimidate said communities.
Challenges to the question were eventually brought before the US Supreme Court, where it was struck down in July, due to the administration using a “contrived” reason for its inclusion.
However, some worry the coverage surrounding the citizenship question will make Latinos apprehensive about the census.
Arellano said that after the “blatant attempt to intimidate Latinos through the citizenship question, it’s more important now than ever for our community to reject these strategic attempts to undercount us”.
Latino advocacy groups have taken a similar stance across the US. In Pennsylvania, Julio Rivera, Northeast census campaign manager at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, told Latinos in Pennsylvania that all, including the undocumented, should not fear being counted, stressing that “information [people] provide to the Census Bureau can’t be given to police”, according to local media.
Arellano agreed: “Latinos in Texas must stand up and fearlessly say we count”.
Regarding the need to encourage Latinos voters, the Jolt director concluded by saying he hopes their “campaign will show that Latinos cannot be scared into giving up our rights and representation. Too much is on the line.”