Make Sure Latino Families Count

By

Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights,

the nation’s largest and most diverse civil and human rights coalition

Latinos are an increasingly important part of the larger American family.  But growing Latino communities have not always received the respect, the resources, or the representation they deserve.  The 2010 census is a good way to help change that. 

Once every ten years, the census counts everyone living in the United States.  Next

year, the count will take place in March and April. It’s such a big

job, and so important, that communities all across the country are

getting ready now to make sure it’s done right. That’s why national and

local Latino organizations are working with the Leadership Conference

on Civil Rights to make sure every Latino is counted.

Census

numbers can translate into a lot of power for Latino communities – but

only if every person is counted. Here are some ways the census is

important to Latinos:

  • Children:  Billions

    of dollars in education funding, and support for school breakfast and

    lunch programs, are distributed every year based on census figures.  The same is true for children’s health insurance.  If your community is undercounted, your schools and the children they serve will lose funding they need.

  • Jobs, infrastructure, and services:  Census

    numbers also influence decisions of national and local importance, such

    as health care, economic development, job training, and road

    construction. They also help drive and private investments in

    businesses and shopping centers. 

  • Political power and equal rights:  Census

    numbers are used to shape federal, state, and local voting districts,

    which can determine whether or not Latino communities are fairly

    represented in Congress, state legislatures, and local councils and

    boards.  That’s why we consider the census one of the most

    important civil rights issues – it affects our ability to ensure equal

    representation and to enforce civil rights laws.

With

so much at stake – jobs, the health and education of children, access

to political representation, civil rights protections – why wouldn’t

everyone want to be counted?

Some may think that participating in the census will be difficult or take a long time.  But

it’s really pretty simple. The census form that will arrive in the mail

next March asks a few basic questions about each person living in a

household, including their age, their gender, and their race and

ethnicity. The census form does not ask about citizenship or residency

status. Forms will be available in English and Spanish, and people with

questions will be able to get free help by phone or from local

community groups.

Some

people may not trust the government to protect their personal

information. But the Census Bureau has a long record of protecting

personal information backed by strong privacy laws. By law, individual

census information is confidential for 72 years.  Maybe

in 2082, your grown great grandchildren will seek out your census

information to write a family history, but until then no government

agency can get access to it – not law enforcement, the courts, or even

the President. Everyone working for the census – including its director

– swears an oath to protect personal information. And anyone who

violates that pledge could be sentenced to five years in jail and a

$250,000 fine.

 Some people, who are upset by the lack of progress on immigration reform are calling for a boycott of the census.  They think that a boycott will help to build pressure to pass reform.  But they’re wrong.  Boycotting

the census would take power away from Latino communities and deprive

families of educational and health resources for the next 10 years.  We’re

much more likely to pass immigration reform by demonstrating to

Congress the growing size and strength of Latino communities.

Latinos are already more likely to go uncounted.  The 2000 census missed an estimated 16 million people.  People

of color and people from low-income communities were more likely to go

uncounted, and every person who goes uncounted hurts.  In fact, every single person who does not get counted could cost their community more than $12,000. That adds up fast.

So help spread the word that the census is coming, and it’s important to Latino families and communities.  It’s time to make sure all families count.

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