Saturday, June 22, 2024

2010 Census Faces Challenges


As the 2010 census approaches, the debate over counting illegal immigrants residing in the US is heating up. Historically, Hispanics and other minority groups are undercounted in this once-a-decade measurement of our nation’s population. Many advocacy groups nation-wide are gearing up to ensure an accurate count, but a number challenges are creating problems for the likelihood of such a count to occur. Between Bush administration budget cuts and the current economic climate, funding for the census is slow moving. Another challenge arises in that millions of laid-off renters and homeowners are moving, making it difficult to ensure these people are not double counted or missed entirely. Plus, more immigrants than ever are residing in the US, many who do not know what a census is or if it is to their benefit or detriment to participate.

According to Hispanic groups, it is estimated that several million Hispanics were left out of the 2000 census. Since census results determine everything from boundaries of congressional districts to federal funding for schools, hospitals, roads and even placement of bus stops, it is extremely important that large populations of the US are not neglected. It is in this regard where the immigration debate fires up. Anti-immigration groups do not object to an accurate count; rather they feel the accurate figures can fuel their arguments. Most of their objections lie in suspending immigration raids during the census and counting non-citizens when drawing congressional districts and allotting funding. Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, believes if non-citizens are counted when drawing districts it “transfers political power to the citizens who live in districts with high numbers of illegal aliens.”

Many Hispanic groups argue that the burden falls on all Americans if significant portions of the population are under counted because it leads to less funding for schools, roads and hospitals-services that everyone uses. Efrain Escobedo, senior director of civic engagement for the National Association of Latino Elected Officials explains “if you go back to your district, regardless of how many people there are citizens or voters, when you’re counting one million and need to count two, this has a huge impact on whether you can deliver services for your voters.”

Hispanic groups are now planning a broad census effort to ensure an accurate count of the population is accomplished. Hoping to partner with the Census Bureau, these groups intend to put forth community-based programs, advertising and public service announcements as well as increase outreach to minorities to aid in conducting the door-to-door surveys in areas with high percentages of immigrants. The Census Bureau seems receptive to these efforts as it has, for the first time, planned to send out bi-lingual forms and hire employees who speak languages other than English.

Without an appropriate budget it will be nearly impossible to ensure an accurate count. The Government Accountability Office recently said the 2010 census is in “serious trouble,” explaining that the Bureau was behind schedule and still had no clear plan to improve the counting of minorities. The stimulus package included $1 billion for the census but minority groups still claim that spending levels for outreach are currently below 2000 levels and there are far more people to count. The Census Bureau recently reported the 2010 budget is expected to reach $14-15 billion, the largest budget ever.

It is essential that there is a broad advertising campaign aimed at educating people about the importance of the census. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who chairs the Senate subcommitee overseeing the census, explained that these efforts should not be “a marketing campaign directed at 60-year-old white guys like me, but to younger people, people who may not speak English well, who we might otherwise leave out.”