Census 2010 should accurately represent Latino population
March 23, 2009 by Jennifer Brandt
Wednesday the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in Washington, D.C. convened to discuss how Latinos have been under-counted in previous census counts and efforts by LULAC and other national Latino organizations are aimed at making the next population count more accurate.
“April 1, 2010, is a critical date for all of us,” said Brent Wilkes, executive director of LULAC, referring to Census Day. “We have to make sure that every person is counted because it’s going to transform what is known about our diverse and growing population.”
Latinos represent an estimated 15 percent of the U.S. population, or 45.5 million people.
Wilkes noted that an accurate census count in 2010 is critical because those numbers will be used to address the needs of communities for the coming decade. The federal government uses census data to allocate about $300 billion in funds every year for vital services, including disaster relief, health care, schools, transportation, libraries and senior centers.
Panelists agreed that many Latinos, regardless of their immigration status, will be suspicious of the letters the Census will be sending out to households in March 2010. If they don’t respond to it, the Census Bureau will follow up by sending a specialist to their address for an interview. Such visits sometimes help the agency locate new members of the community.
One of the Census Bureau’s strategies for overcoming such fears is to deploy bilingual specialists around the country to do follow-up home visits. The agency has already hired personnel who speak 55 of 59 languages it has determined are needed for interviewing. “We want to make sure that the person who comes to your door looks just like you,” Ramos said.
In communities where Latinos represent more than 20 percent of the population, the agency will send the forms in both English and Spanish. Communities with smaller percentages of Latinos or other non-English-speaking groups can request bilingual forms.
The Census Bureau is also setting up local offices, with 145 already open and a total of 485 expected to be operating by the end of the year. These offices, located in the middle of communities, will help the agency do the hyper-local part of the job. But they also offer job opportunities.
Author: Cristina F. Pereda