For decades, the U.S. Census has undercounted America’s Hispanic community. Factors such as immigration status, income level, language and education serve as continuing barriers for this population.
As Census 2020 approaches, JudeAnne Heath of LULAC
discusses efforts to ensure an accurate count of Hispanic families living in the United States.
Anderson: The US Constitution requires an accurate count of the nation's population every 10 years. The outcome of the next nationwide census, in 2020, will impact federal funding and Congressional representation across all 50 states. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Latinos have been undercounted in the census for decades, that resulting in disadvantaging families, communities, and neighborhoods. Joining me is JudeAnne Heath. She is the Senior Director for Community Affairs and Projects at LULAC. That's the League of United Latin American Citizens. And, JudeAnne, I want to start out talking about the money. There are billions of dollars at stake here, depending on who is counted or not. What exactly is at risk?
Heath: There is lots at risk here, especially if our community and other communities are undercounted. So, not only is there billions in federal funding but it also comes down to redistricts, our representation in Congress and the Senate, and how much federal funding is given to state, local, and everything we need for education, community resources, health, so there's a lot at stake here.
Anderson: And there are a lot of issues, when it comes to getting Latinos to agree to be counted in the first place --everything from poverty to education. Can you talk about some of the major barriers here?
Heath: Absolutely. As you know, Latinos are not a monolith, so there's quite a few issues. We have historically been undercounted in the census, due to language barriers, as you said, poverty. A lot of community lives in hard-to-reach and hard-to-count places. There's also immigration status to take into account. A lot of families have mixed immigration status. So, you know, while they might be fearful to be counted and to answer the census accurately, but if they don't answer, then we are now underrepresented and undercounted. Children historically have been undercounted, and Latinos account for 24% of children under the age of 5. And so, without those numbers and with the barriers listed, we won't be able to be represented.
Anderson: And it's not just the barriers you mentioned, like education, poverty, stigma. The census itself is actually problematic, when it comes to the people who are going to take it.
Heath: Exactly. People might be fearful to answer the door or give their answers. They don't know who's there, and they don't know what's gonna be done with the information, so privacy is a huge concern for our community. And also the way the questions are laid out and asked, not only the language barrier. As you know, 31% of our community doesn't speak English or has -- a child may speak English, but the parent may not. And so all those contribute. Historically, they've asked the Hispanic ethnicity question and the race question separately, but they found that if you would ask them together, it would give a more accurate representation. Latinos can answer more than one of these checkboxes, and so, in order to get an accurate count, we have to be able to make sure that the questions reflect [the community that they're trying to reach.
Anderson: So, presumably, you work with the Census Bureau, as well, in an effort to engage your community. What is the census doing differently at this point?
Heath: So, at this point, the main thing that the census is doing differently is asking about people's citizenship, which has not historically always been there. And so this truly represents a problem, and people fear about what they're gonna do with that question. Are you they gonna pass that question along to other federal agencies? Who is gonna get the answer to this? And will this affect their status? Will it affect their children's status in the United States, their education, their access to healthcare and other items? And so just even the prospect of that question being on there has made people fearful, in this climate, of responding. Also, the census has also been historically a great employer of our community. And now that this question is out there, people are also just fearful to have any interaction with the government, and that's unfortunate because we are really trying to get the message out, how important it is to answer the census and be accurate with it so we can be represented.
Anderson: So, when it comes to that message, how is it that you are engaging the community so that they know that this is something that they should take part in, because it's for the good of everybody, not just the Latino community?
Heath: Absolutely. LULAC has been working with all of our councils. We have over 1,000 councils nationwide and in Puerto Rico. We've been getting e-mails, messaging out, Facebook, social media, and even local events, so people know what's gonna be on the census, what rights they have, when it comes to answering the census, and the privacy that they're afforded, and letting them know that we are here for them and to protect them and to help them answer accurately, know that they're gonna be there, and have a connection with the community and know that it's gonna be -- that they need to be able to do this.
Anderson: And quickly, if people want more information about what you're doing or to access resources, what should they do?
Heath: They should go to lulac.org. And we have tool kits, resources. You can find a council near you. We work also with local churches, other local partners to make sure that we are all connected and are all on the same messaging here, as well as working with the census. So, lulac.org will offer a host of resources for them.
Anderson: Fantastic. JudeAnne Heath, thank you so much.
Heath: Thank you, Tetiana
Anderson: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, be sure to visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.