Opening Plenary: Census—Latinos Leading in Numbers
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"The 2010 Census could be the Latino census because it's the first census in which Latinos will be the nation's second largest population group in the United States," said Arturo Vargas, Executive Director, NALEO. And the numbers according to Rakesh Kochhar, Ph.D., associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center, back him up. Hochhar reported that between 2000 and 2007, the Hispanic population in the United States has grown from 35 million to more than 47 million, accounting for more than half of the total population growth and raising Latinos from 12.5 percent of the population to 15 percent. With foreign born residents growing from 31 million to 38 million, today about 13 percent of our population is foreign born, of which 40 percent is Hispanic.
What's at Risk?
There's a lot at stake. The results of the census determine how $300 billion in federal funds for roads, healthcare, child care, and other major projects will be spent-and which communities will receive the funds. It will also guide redistricting efforts, which has a significant influence on future elections and representation. Each person represented in the census is worth about $14,000 in investment in our communities.
Core Hispanic States vs. New Hispanic States
We can't have an accurate census without an accurate count. While a strong infrastructure exists in core Hispanic states-New York, New Jersey, Florida, Illinois, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas-new Hispanic states-Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts-and those will a smaller concentration of Hispanics-lack the ground force needed to ensure all resident Latinos are counted-whether or not they are documented.
Getting the Word Out
"It's a hard sell to convince the undocumented to participate," said Vargas. In addition, some groups will actively seek to discourage Latino participation to distort the numbers. We need to get the word out through churches and business and community leaders that it's safe and important to participate in the census-and that is vitally important to our community so people aren't afraid to participate. No data from the census can be shared with any other government agency-not the IRS, FBI, or ICE.
A national media campaign will launch October 1, 2009 to encourage all Latinos to participate in the census, which is a short form of only 10 questions. January 2, 2010 triggers a massive launch through Spanish language media. In communities with a high Latino population, a bilingual form will be mailed to all households not returning the initial form a couple of weeks after its initial mailing. Additionally, Census enumerators will visit households not returning forms and seek out the homeless to ensure every U.S. resident is counted.