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2020 Census Count Campaign underway

By La Prensa Staff

As 2020 heats up as another presidential election year, Latinos want to make sure another important campaign won't be forgotten—an organized effort to ensure Latinos are counted nationwide. Those efforts are ramping up early, because of what it means for an accurate count.

 

This year won't just focus on the number of Latino immigrants who have come to Ohio and perhaps decided to stay as they work the farm fields. The official 2020 population head count also will include a new demographic—individuals and families from Puerto Rico who fled Hurricane Maria and will settle in the states permanently.

For example, in Ohio, according to a proclamation issued by Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz declaring June as Immigrant Heritage Month locally, the city lost one percent of its population between 2000 and 2010, while its immigrant population increased by 21 percent. The proclamation also declares that Toledo has “a responsibility…to ensure that our great city is a welcoming place for all people to live without exception.”

To ensure minorities in hard-to-reach communities are counted, the Ohio Census Advocacy Coalition (OCAC) is pressuring the Ohio Senate to add $1.1 million to the state budget proposal to beef up the communications and outreach strategy of the Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS), the agency that oversees state census efforts.

The group’s timing may be just right, as Gov. Mike DeWine is adjusting his biennial budget proposal to reflect robust tax collections during the month of May, continuing a trend of growing state coffers and money available to spend on additional programs. The OCAC wants to see the extra money go toward grants to nonprofit organizations in hard-to-count (HTC) communities to fund get-out-the-count mobilization efforts and grants to local complete count committees to fund localized communication and outreach to their residents. However, the Ohio Senate is expected to release its own budget proposal in the next week or so.

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) has spent the better part of the year encouraging immigrants from Toledo to Dayton to apply for citizenship, reaching out directly to permanent residents who hold green cards and have lived in the U.S. for at least five years. ABLE is selling the possibility those people could become citizens in time to be eligible to vote in the 2020 election. But those residents also would be counted as citizens in next year’s census as well.

There are genuine fears of a serious census undercount of the country’s Latino population for a number of reasons. First, US-Americans for the first time will be able to respond to the 2020 census online. The shift to digital, along with a potential question about U.S. citizenship, language barriers, underfunding and other issues, are combining to potentially make the official head U.S. count inaccurate and incomplete, according to the National Latino Commission on Census 2020.

“The census is at the greatest risk than it has ever been in our lifetime,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, which has formed the National Latino Commission on Census 2020.

The commission released a report last month that was, in part, based on hearings held in five U.S. cities, including Columbus, Ohio, on the impact of the president's immigration and other policies on the census. Dozens of public officials, community organizers and others-- many familiar with hard-to-count communities in their areas-- provided input. The report, according to NBC News, delivers a dire prediction on next year’s census and slams the Trump administration.

The commission found that the addition of a citizenship question is the largest concern of Latino constituent groups. The U.S. Supreme Court could deliver a ruling later this month on the Trump administration’s plan to ask people whether they are U.S. citizens, although the timing is not certain. The fear is that asking the citizenship question would discourage responses from Latinos and undocumented immigrants—something the Census Bureau’s own research also shows.

The ongoing digital divide is another top concern in the commission’s report. Lack of access to the Internet among Latinos, combined with language barriers, pose a real threat to a census undercount. Many believe the online census questionnaire is driven more by cost savings than its potential effectiveness. 80 percent of U.S. households will be asked to fill out the census questionnaire online.

A Pew Research Center study shows that 72 percent of white adults in the U.S. used broadband at home in 2018, compared with 57 percent of Black-Americans and just 47 percent of Latinos.

Ohio has a huge stake in an accurate federal head count of Buckeye state residents. The state lost two Congressional seats due to declining population following the 2010 Census and is at risk of losing at least one more Congressional representative and its share of more than $675 billion in annual federal tax revenue.

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur is extremely worried about how well those households will be counted across her northern Ohio district, especially with the emphasis online. “I’m concerned that, in the neighborhood I live in and thousands of neighborhoods across northern Ohio, there are people who do not use apps. They don’t feel comfortable with the internet,” said Rep. Kaptur (D-Toledo to Cleveland) during a recent press conference about the census.

While alleging the 2010 head count missed millions of minorities, the fear is even greater that the emphasis on a digital response will mean an even worse outcome due to understaffing. The Census Bureau is already recruiting for census enumerators in metro areas. Getting the most accurate possible count will require people who know their communities and are linguistically and culturally fluent, as well as persistent and trustworthy.

According to a study published last year by Cleveland State University’s Center for Population Dynamics, Ohio lost about 183,000 native-born residents over the past six years. But over that same period, Ohio welcomed nearly 113,000 immigrants who helped stabilize the state’s population. But getting them all properly counted is another matter entirely.

The Toledo Community Foundation is encouraging nonprofit groups and donors to figure out ways to reach vulnerable populations next year. But no specifics or incentives were offered.

“This is especially important since the 2020 census will be markedly different than in years past,” said Anneliese Grytafey of the Toledo Community Foundation. “The heavy reliance by the federal government on an online process in 2020 means that we’re at greater risk than ever for an incomplete count, something our community absolutely cannot afford.”

The Urban Institute is predicting a serious undercount of minorities and children under age five. In particular, the group’s research predicts a Latino undercount in Ohio alone of 9,700 (2%) to 17,000 (3.6%).

 

 

 

  

Copyright © 1989 to 2019 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 06/11/19 13:59:39 -0700.

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