Maximizing Latino Participation in Census 2020

with Vanessa Cardenas of the League of United Latin American Citizens

Latinos, the nation’s second largest population group, have been undercounted in the U.S. Census for decades. Advocates say an accurate count of Latinos and all communities is imperative to ensure equity in political representation and access to resources.

Vanessa Cardenas of the League of United Latin American Citizens explains how LULAC is working to help the Latino community overcome the barriers of confusion and language, and increase participation.

Posted on:

Mar 30, 2020

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: The 2020 Census is now underway with outcomes impacting 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, due in part to fear and confusion caused by language barriers and immigration status. To set the record straight, there is no question on the 2020 Census that asks about a person's US citizenship. The League of United Latin American Citizens, LULAC, says that it's important to know and even more important to participate in the Census this year. Vanessa Cardenas is from LULAC, and she is joining me to explain why. Vanessa, thank you so much for being here.

Cardenas: No, thank you for having me.

Anderson: So there are still other challenges and other concerns on the minds of many Latinos when it comes to the Census. What are some of those concerns and what are you doing to allay those fears?

Cardenas: Sure, sure. So LULAC has been working with sort of a range of partners and coalition members at the national levels to make sure that, first of all, the Census is accurate and it brings the data that we need to our communities. We've also been working with the US Census Bureau to make sure that it's also accessible. As you mentioned, Latinos are chronically undercounted, but they're not the only community that's undercounted. The LGBTQ community, the Native American community, and other disadvantaged communities are affected by it. So it is in everyone's sort of best interests to make sure that we make the Census as accessible as possible and to remind folks that the Census is easy to fill out, is safe to fill out, and it's going to be protected. Information is going to be protected. And lastly, I would say that it is also a really important part of our democracy to participate in. This is another way for every person in the United States to be part of our democratic process.

Anderson: I want to go back to the challenges bit, because privacy is a big part of that. And in the Latino community, there are concerns there. But you're saying, don't worry.

Cardenas: Yes, listen. I know that the concern is there, but that is why LULAC and a bunch of other national groups have been working to make sure that the citizenship question is not in the form, which was a big concern. The information in the Census is also protected by law, meaning it's not accessible to law enforcement agencies or other agencies. But most importantly, this information is really crucial so communities on the ground can get their fair share in the resources they need so that we can have the -- and enough number of schools and hospitals and parks and sort of services in our community. So it is really important for the community to participate and to participate fully.

Anderson: So, when you say community, obviously you're focused on Latinos. But when we have something like the Census, it requires buy-in from everybody.

Cardenas: Right.

Anderson: How possible is it, do you think, to get 100% participation? -

Cardenas: Mm-hmm. Well, listen, I think that's the goal always, right? This is a constitutionally mandated process. And it is our opportunity, again, to make sure that every voice is counted. We want to get to as many people as possible. And they all should know that, again, you know, that, in spite of the barriers -- and we do have some barriers, you know, when you look at sort of why people don't participate in the past, it's for a range of reasons. Language is one, which is why this Census this year is providing language access in over 13 languages. Right? Education level is another issue. Poverty levels and so on and so forth. But what LULAC and other organizations are trying to do is to make it as easy as possible. So people this year are going to be able to fill out the form, you know, the actual form, but they can do it online and also through the phone. So we're trying to make it accessible as possible. And the other piece, you know, for example, LULAC, we are working with with our over 1,000 councils that are pretty much spread through the United States. So they are working also with the Census to make sure they're going into the communities, that people understand that this is, again, a process that we need to get through in order to get the resources that we need and the political power.

Anderson: Well, see, I wanted to talk about that because there's a lot at stake here, and I think that sometimes that's what people don't understand. So can you go through some of the things that makes this beneficial? I mean, dollars, services. What are we talking about?

Cardenas: So, you know, I said, again, two things. It's about resources and it's also about political power. When we talk about resources, the information that the Census compiles helps localities, state decide what kind of services and where those services should be provided. We're talking about, you know, how many schools do we need? How many more parks should we build? Where are the roads that should be built? Even for businesses, where should we have a new supermarket? Right? So things that are really affecting people's lives. They're also thinking about in terms of the federal dollars, right? How much money are we allocating to Title I for a certain state? Or, you know, how much more funding do we need for health insurance for kids? So it's really at both the macro and the micro level. So that's one on the services side. In terms of the political power, based on the Census, states get allocated congressional seats. So it's really important for us to count people that are living in those states. And also, based on the Census, we get to know how many Electoral College votes each state has. So, again, when you talk about ways to really participate and to ensure that our community is getting both the resources and the political influence they need, the Census is key to that.

Anderson: It's certainly the best way to make our voices heard. Vanessa Cardenas, thank you.

Cardenas: Thank you for having me.

Anderson: And thanks to you, as well, for joining us. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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