How many times since the start of the Trump administration have we, members of the Latinx, immigrant and other marginalized communities that make up the fabric of this country, found ourselves screaming out loud from the streets to the halls of Congress that we count–that our voices, our safety, our children and, many times, our very EXISTENCE in this country matters?
And how many times have our voices been met with arrogance, thinly veiled racism, sexism and yes, even hate? The answer: too many times to count.
And yet we persist. DREAMers and undocumented immigrants have come forward to be seen, heard and counted while others relentlessly fight to ensure our community’s public safety nets and educational opportunities are kept in tact. See, what the Trump administration doesn’t realize in its constant attack on us is that persistence is not a new concept for us. Our Latinx community is resilient and has time after time won battles for our dignity, our rights, our protection and opportunities for our children.
Well folks, our next battle is upon us: the 2020 US Census.
While the 2020 Census may seem too far to generate discussion among communities just yet, untimely decisions, underfunded testing, and insufficient operational support have already jeopardized a full count of the Latinx community.
But before we get into that, let’s start by revisiting why the Census matters to our community. Required by the U.S Constitution, every ten years the government must conduct a census that captures the number of individuals living within its borders. The results of the count is used in part or in whole to determine fund allocation of over 132 federal programs including the National School Lunch Program, the federal Pell Grant Program, which provides grants to lower-income college students, and educational funding to support low-income, English learners and other vulnerable student populations. And just as important, the Census count directly impacts our representation, as in how many people we get to send to Congress to fight and defend our interests.
The Census matters, big time. Simply put, a lower count equals less money and less political power.
Unfortunately, Latinx communities, particularly Latinx children, have been historically undercounted resulting in a loss of billions of federal resources over time, so it is not surprising that this is where the Trump administration has chosen to pick a fight with us.
Despite warnings and strong opposition, on March 26th, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the Census form. The reinstatement is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to prevent undocumented families from participating in the Census for fear of deportation. The intended result: a lower count of the Latinx community.
Further, the Census Bureau, in an attempt to “save costs and minimize risk” is making moves to transition from mail-in Census forms to an online digital platform. Needless to say, the effort ignores the existence of our country’s very real digital divide. This move unquestionably favors those sectors of our society that have access to and comfort with technology while disadvantaging those who don’t. The intended result: lower count of the Latinx community.
As the Executive Director of the Alliance for a Better Community whose mission is to promote the economic prosperity of the Los Angeles Latinx community inclusive of an improved quality of life for Latinos in education, health and civic participation, we will be doing all possible to ensure a full count of the Los Angeles Latinx community. We will work closely with our civil rights, social justice and advocacy partners to maximize outreach and awareness about the importance of the Census through public education campaigns, coalition building and engagement with our public institutions. We will fight for Congress to pass legislation that reverses the biased efforts that have been introduced.
But I’m here to tell you: that will not be enough. We need every comadre in on this. The fear within our immigrant community is justified and real and will not be subsided by billboards, radio commercials or educational pamphlets. To be sure, we will win this battle, but it will only be won one person at a time. Fear is overcome by trust and love. The trusted leaders in our immigrant communities will be the ones to lead this effort of ensuring an accurate count by guiding communities to provide information about their legal status and other personal information to the government. We must all do our part to encourage our neighbors, our co-workers and our families to participate.
The battle is before us, but lucky for us the path to victory is clear. We must make our stand by not only saying we count, but by actually being counted.
Stay connected by joining NALEO Educational Fund’s the ¡Hágase Contar! Census 2020 Campaign! to receive updates and by subscribing to Alliance for a Better Community’s newsletter where we will share tactics and practices to ensure a full and accurate count for the 2020 Census.