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Abiding by the constitution’s directive to number the population once a decade, the U.S. Census Bureau is in full swing preparing for the 2020 survey.
Area offices across the country are opening to begin recruiting census takers, establish community partnerships, and inform every person of why they should participate.
Additionally, this is the first time the census will be available online for every person in America—regardless of citizenship status—to complete.
This survey is too important to overlook, primarily because it influences funding and lawmaking, according to Lloyd Doggett, U.S. Representative for Texas’ 35th District, who spoke at the grand opening of the San Antonio (64% Latino) Census Area Offices on Thursday.
“Based on the census count, the federal government will decide so much that impacts our lives: Our roadways and the allocation to our transportation departments; education and pre-k; Medicaid and food stamps,” Doggett said. “Whether we have sufficient funding to do the things for the people that we need to serve.”
Using Texas as an example, undercounting the population by just 1% could cost the state up to $300 million dollars, Doggett said.
Kick-Off to 2020 Census
As the forthcoming census approaches, the Bureau is working with leaders at every level of government to ensure a full count.
The Bureau hopes these initiatives will result in less anxiety and more contributions. Getting as accurate of a count as possible is essential, too. The data collected in the census will influence allocations of funds, political redistricting, and much more.
An undercount of Latinos is especially problematic.
“We need the census to undo what the census has told us,” State Representative for Texas’ 123rd district, Diego Bernal, said at the Census Bureau press conference. “The only way we do that is if we mobilize and that we convince our neighbors that there is absolutely nothing to fear.”
Addressing Census Concerns
In what many considered a victory, especially for the Latino community, Chief Justice John Roberts blocked the Trump administration’s push to include a citizenship question on the census in June.
Still, that effort caused widespread misinformation and an apprehension—especially among undocumented immigrants—to taking the survey, according to numerous speakers at the Thursday press conference.
It’s something officials are grappling with today. Among the pages listed on the 2020 census website header, “Privacy and Security” holds a prominent place.
“It is all of our duties to make sure people understand that the census is secure and its safe,” said Dennis Johnson, deputy regional director of the Bureau’s Denver region, which makes up one-sixth of the country, at the Thursday event. “Individual information about you or I can never be released. No information provided in the census can be used in a personal way against anyone. It can’t be used for any purpose whatsoever.”
Additionally, the Bureau made it clear that the information gathered in the survey is not shared with other parties, such as the White House, Congress, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or other law enforcement agencies.
In fact, sharing any census data with anyone else could result in a five-year jail sentence and a fine of $250,000, according to Johnson.
Every 10 years, the federal government mobilizes the largest non-military force to help complete its survey.
Willing and able citizens from all backgrounds can find a job with the Bureau as a census taker.
More, the Bureau has hired over 2.5 million people across the country to work with their agency in this effort. Census representatives say they still need 500,000 more.
As 2020 approaches, there is still more work to do in informing people of and encouraging their participation in the census.
All that work is going to providing a better future to the children in this country, said Rebecca J. Viagran, a city councilwoman for San Antonio’s 3rd district.
“Our kids are going through so much,” Viagran said. “They’re marching in the streets against gun violence, they’re marching in the streets for climate change. This is a way that they can have their voices heard.”
This article is part of a collaboration between Salud America! and the Hoffman Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT) program at UT Health- San Antonio. To find out if you are TILTed due to exposure to everyday foods, chemicals, or drugs, take a self-assessment or learn more about TILT.