Countdown to Be Counted on April 1 – Census 2010
President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
In about 100 days, the 2010 Census – the nationwide head count – begins. It is critical for Latinos, the largest minority in the nation – and one that has been historically under-counted – to be counted.
The once-in-a-decade census is vital to the health and well-being of Latino communities. Why?
Because the census takes a snapshot of the nation’s population and with that count, determines how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives and where district lines are drawn within each state – not to mention the distribution of more than $400 billion in federal funds to states and localities annually.
These federal funds provide money for schools and roads, for health care for low-income children, for veterans and senior citizens, and for public services that benefit Latino communities.
At a time when unemployment is at its highest since the 1980s and when the mortgage crisis has undermined Latino wealth through hundreds of thousands of home foreclosures, the flow of federal funds coming into Latino communities is crucial.
You only have to look at the difference in the unemployment rates to see how distressed the Latino community is from the rise in joblessness – overall, national unemployment is 10 percent, but for Latinos, it’s 12.7 percent.
The situation for Latino communities is made worse because state and local governments faced with huge budget deficits are likely to cut funds for programs such as bilingual classes, after-school programs, and health services – programs that are vital to Latino communities, families, and children.
That is why Latinos can’t afford not to be counted in the census.
Many in the Latino community did not participate in the census in the past because they were afraid that the information would be used by immigration authorities or because they were unaware that they could get a census form in Spanish.
These fears and concerns are natural and understandable – but, by law, all census data are confidential. No one – not your landlord, not credit agencies, not immigration authorities, not law enforcement, not even the president of the United States – has access to your personal census data.
What’s more, by not participating in the census, Latinos run an even greater risk of being marginalized, and denying their communities and children the voice and resources they deserve.
The Census Bureau has already begun working with organizations in the Latino community to help ensure that Latinos understand and participate in the 2010 census.
The Latino community needs to stand up and be counted. Taking ten minutes on April 1 to fill out a census form and mail it back is worth it.