Census pushes online participation as states remain under stay-at-home orders

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Community leaders urge Latinos to avoid repeat of 2010 undercount

This Sunday, April 5, 2020, letter shows a Census form mailed to a resident in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — With people in many states observing stay-at-home orders, the Census Bureau is pushing online participation.

The Digital Action Weekend campaign May 1-3 aims to have community institutions and social media influencers use the hashtag #2020Census in their posts. People are also encouraged to share Facebook and Instagram posts from the Census and retweet their posts.

Just over half the population has taken part in the count so far, but border states like Arizona, Texas and New Mexico are below the 54.3% national average. California has above-average participation (56%), Arizona posts a 52.1% rate followed by Texas at 49.6% and New Mexico with 43.1%.

These states are heavily Hispanic, a segment undercounted by 1.5% in the 2010 census. On Thursday, community leaders went online to invite Latinos to visit my2020census.gov. They also warned them about loss of funds for health and education should they fail to participate.

“In 2010, we had 400,000 Latino kids that were not counted. We cannot allow another undercount because our communities will lose money,” said Arturo Vargas, national president of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO).

Community leaders pushed Latino participation in the Census in an online forum sponsored by Spanish-language Univision network. (Facebook photo)

Vargas spoke at an online forum sponsored by Spanish-language network Univision. Participants tried to quell traditional misgivings about intrusive immigration questions — there are none in this year’s survey — and explained how federal Medicaid and school lunch resources are tied to the count.

“It’s also a civil rights issue. Texas went up from 32 to 36 seats in (the House of Representatives) because of the population increase. Two-thirds of that increase was Hispanic. Texas can go up to 38 members in the House” if all Texas make themselves count, said Vargas, an El Paso native.

He and others stressed that the census doesn’t share responses or personal information with other federal agencies, so people who are in the country without authorization but reside here should participate.

And if you don’t want census workers knocking on your door this summer, it’s best to go online now, said Irma Cruz, policy and campaign coordinator for the El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights.

The census plans to move on to home interviews from May 27 to Aug. 14, unless the COVID-19 pandemic causes a change of plans.

“The easiest thing is to do on the web, on your phone. It only takes a few minutes to procure the resources we need for our community. It’s also the best way to protect ourselves from the (COVID-19) pandemic … otherwise, you’ll have an employee of the census going to your home,” Cruz said.

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