Congressman says Census funds doubled, pushes for Spanish-language ads

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In this April 23, 2019 file photo, immigration activists rally outside the Supreme Court as the justices hear arguments over the Trump administration’s plan to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census, in Washington. A New York judge says the Justice Department can’t change lawyers so late in the dispute over whether to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Judge Jesse Furman ruled Tuesday, July 9, 2019, saying lawyers must cite satisfactory reasons for withdrawing. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A South Texas congressman who sits on the House Appropriations Committee said funding for the 2020 Census has been almost doubled and there will be a push for Spanish-language marketing.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, vice chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, said in a conference call with media on Wednesday that the budget for this year’s Census is $7.5 billion, that’s $3.5 billion more than last year.

Cuellar said he was successful in adding language into the budget measure that ensures a portion of those funds will be spent in Spanish-language marketing, to help ensure an accurate count.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar sits on the House Appropriations Committee. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

Cuellar expressed disappointment in the amount of ads that were created in Spanish for the 2010 Census and he said the stakes are high and this is a segment of the population that cannot be missed.

“I have asked them to make sure it is English and Spanish,” Cuellar said. “In 2010 we had to push them hard to get them to do a little bit more in Spanish. This year they seem to be doing a lot better than where they were in 2010.”

The bulk of the budget will go toward hiring Census workers to canvass neighborhoods, he said. In South Texas, the Bureau plans to hire 8,000 part-time and full-time temporary workers to help with the 2020 Census in four South Texas counties.

Read a Border Report story on Census jobs in the Rio Grande Valley.

The Census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution every 10 years. It’s especially important in determining how much funding states and communities will receive, as well as the number of congressional representatives for each state.

This graphic from the U.S. Census Bureau shows how households will be contacted for the upcoming Census. (Courtesy)

Texas stands to gain three new House members, Cuellar said. The Lone Star State picked up four new House seats in the 2010 Census.

Communities are at risk of losing millions of dollars in federal funding if residents aren’t counted. And that is especially a concern in low-income colonias in South Texas, Cuellar said.

“Texas is not at the top of the states that people automatically return their Census forms,” Cuellar said.

His hometown of Laredo, for example, largely missed children ages 5 and under during the last Census, he said. “I asked why and they said sometimes it’s a divorce, they thought dad would count and mom would count. So we have to make sure that we understand the particular circumstances in each community to count those people. This is why hiring those Census workers from our communities is so important,” he said.

This year, online Census forms will be used. Letters urging families to go online will be mailed in mid-March. The national Census Day is April 1, and after that workers will begin canvassing neighborhoods to catch anyone who has not responded.

Immigrant advocates and community leaders fear many migrant families will not fill out the forms fearing retribution by federal authorities based on their immigration status. President Trump wanted to add a citizenship question on the Census but officials say that will not happen.

However last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced it will share citizenship information with the U.S. Census Bureau as part of President Donald Trump’s order to collect data on who is a citizen following the Supreme Court’s rejection of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census form.

Trump’s order is being challenged in federal court, but the agency said it would share administrative records to help the Census Bureau determine the number of citizens and noncitizens in the U.S., as well as the number of immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

Read more about DHS working with the U.S. Census Bureau here.

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