By Ken Stone and Chris Stone
Latinos in America shouldn’t be their own worst enemy by falling for “tactics” of uncertainty and fear over the 2020 census.
Martínez-de-Castro didn’t name offenders, but said they try to get the community itself to shun the count so “we ourselves are the ones that diminish our voice.”
A former undocumented immigrant, Martínez-de-Castro is deputy vice president for policy and advocacy for UnidosUS, formerly known as National Council of La Raza.
She told an audience of about 100 that an accurate census is crucial to America’s Hispanic community and “the more of us that get counted, the safer we will be.”
Not getting counted robs her community of a share of tax money and “our voice, because … we do not have the ability to have political representation,” she told Times of San Diego after a 90-minute workshop.
A slide shown while panelist Diali Avila was speaking said the Trump administration has “created a toxic environment for people of color and immigrants that exacerbates an already historic mistrust in government.”
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Avila is senior field manager on the Census Counts Campaign of the Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.
The workshop — “Invisible No More: Making Sure Latinos Count in the 2020 Census” — served as a strategy session on how to get the most complete Hispanic census count.
“We have to meet people where they are,” said Nancy Maldonado, president and CEO of Chicano Federation of San Diego County.
Hispanic community leaders will recruit “trusted messengers” in the schools, libraries, clinics and at festivals and other places where people gather, the panel said.
Those messengers need to explain the connection of the census to funding for community services, they said.
Services such as Head Start and community clinics depend on federal funding allocated via census figures, panelists said.
Others panelists addressing the nation’s largest nonprofit Latino advocacy group were Josie Bacallao, president and CEO of Hispanic Unity of Florida, and Maria Faini, researcher with the Third World Liberation Front Research Initiative at Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender.
A reason the community is in a “mess” right now is because many areas that need it don’t have proper representation in Congress and other places where decisions are made, said Martínez-de-Castro.
She noted the once-every-10-years census is a constitutional mandate to have an accurate count of who lives in the country — “and that means everybody,” including the undocumented among the nation’s estimated 56.5 million Hispanics.
Martínez-de-Castro wanted it known that census information can’t be used for any other reason than getting an accurate count.
“So that information is protected, and there are steep fines on anyone, government employee or otherwise, that discloses that information,” she said.
In addition, data being gathered is not someone’s individual information but is randomized, “so you cannot tell that it is that person. It’s aggregated in such a way so you cannot tell that it belongs to that individual person.”
Other than Martínez-de-Castro, who noted it briefly, nobody on the panel mentioned the court fight over whether the census would include a citizenship question. No such query is planned. (However, said a slide, some 6 million people would have skipped the census had it had a citizenship question.)
Instead, the panelists talked about the census process and need to “energize” the Latino community to take part.
In January, the first phase involves mail questionnaires — which include the option of answering online, by phone or by mail. After April, if a household hasn’t answered questions, members of the 500,000-member census force come to your residence.
But the 2020 census will be the first with an online option, raising concerns about access to the Internet, confidentiality and cybersecurity, noted a slide during Avila’s talk.
In any case, 75 percent of Latinos prefer filling out paper forms, according to panelist Faini.
Panelist Bacallao, citing Urban Institute projections, said 900,000 to 4 million people may be undercounted. Hispanics and blacks have a higher incidence of being undercounted, and children 4 and under have the highest chance of being missed.
Others at risk of undercount are limited English speakers, single women with children, people with low income or limited education, and young renters.
Households need to report everyone who lives at the house, not just immediate family members, panelists said.
In June, the Urban Institute said some states face a greater risk of undercounts because they have large populations of historically undercounted groups.
“California has the greatest undercount risk, with projected 2020 undercounts ranging from 0.95 percent (low risk) to 1.98 percent (high risk),” says the Washington-based think tank. “Other states at risk for serious undercounts are Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Georgia, New York and Florida.”
The convention continues through Tuesday and includes more than 25 workshops and a Monday chat with five Democratic presidential candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden, former Housing Secretary Julián Castro and Sens. Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders. Only paid registrants get to hear the foursome.
But Sunday will see the close of the free public National Latino Family Expo in Exhibit Hall C. It features five themed pavilions and more than 150 exhibitors.
Attendees will have access to free dental and eye exams, glaucoma screenings and school vaccinations. As well, they can do back-to-school shopping with one booth handing out free backpacks.
Live performances by Las Cafeteras and Mariachi Las Alteñas are set, along with costumed Angry Bird (video game) and Dora the Explorer (PBS show) characters. The expo goes from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Updated at 8:35 a.m. Aug. 5, 2019
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