Cronkite NewsCensus Day. Surveys can be filled out by mail, phone or over the internet. The Constitution requires the government to attempt to count everyone throughout the 50 states, as well as in five U.S. territories and Washington, D.C., every 10 years. The data is used to allocate federal funding throughout the country and reapportion the 435 seats in the House of Representatives depending on state population. Vicki McIntire, deputy regional director of the Denver Regional Census Center, noted that census data is used to distribute over $675 billion in federal funds to U.S. communities each year. The money pays for such local projects as road construction, education and health care programs. She also discussed what the Census Bureau is doing to address the lack of representation Native Americans have seen in recent counts. The bureau last summer estimated that 5.3% of Arizonans are American Indian and Alaska Native. “We have met one-on-one with all of the tribal nations in the state of Arizona,” McIntire said. “We’ve asked all of these tribal nations to have a liaison from their tribe work with us directly, and we’ve paid for them to get educated and trained on the census. We are hiring locally within the tribal nations, too.”
She also described the bureau’s national outreach campaign, which largely focuses on engaging local communities and reaching out online. “What we are really trying to do is get our local community members, trusted voices in the community, faith leaders, health care workers, teachers – people that the community trusts and listens to – engaged and educated, and that they spread the word.” McIntire said census reporters usually begin knocking on doors about a month after Census Day at the earliest, and usually will go back six times if they haven’t received a response. The data must be collected by July 31 so it can be delivered to the president and Congress by December 31. After the fourth visit to the same home, she said, census reporters will knock on a neighbor’s door to collect information on whether the first home is vacant. McIntire mentioned that administrative records are used to make up for what reporters aren’t able to collect. Lydia Guzman, director for advocacy and civic engagement for Chicanos Por La Causa, a nonprofit that works to improve the lives of Hispanics in Arizona, said not enough Hispanics participated in the 2010 census, resulting in an incomplete tally of the population and a loss of federal funds. A decade ago, Guzman said, many clients of her group had been told not to open the door to strangers – a response to the April 2010 signing of Senate Bill 1070, which required law enforcement officials to investigate the immigration status of anyone they suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down three of its provisions in June 2012 but upheld the one requiring immigration status checks during law enforcement stops. Chicanos Por La Causa has been teaching a very different lesson since S.B. 1070 was first signed into law, Guzman said. “We’ve come a long way since S.B. 1070,” she said. “It’s important that (people) make themselves count. There’s nothing to be afraid of, and that’s the message that’s different between now and 10 years ago.” Guzman said the organization is encouraging its clients to fill out the census form by any means possible, and it’s working on new ways to entice individuals to participate. “We’re going to have several census assistance centers for all of those individuals that don’t have access to the internet, who don’t have a computer and would like to fill out the census questionnaire online,” she said. “They can check with us and see which one is closest to them so they can comfortably fill out the census forms.” Another major incentive for Hispanics to participate in this year’s count, she said, is the prospect of Arizona gaining a 10th seat in Congress. “We think that we have an opportunity to have another Latino representative (in the House), so this is a big plus for everyone in the community,” Guzman said. Solís and others hope the symposium educated Arizonans on what’s at stake in the coming weeks. “What I hope that we get is a very accurate 2020 census. If it’s very accurate, it’s a reflection of who we are as a community,” Solís said. “We will get our fair allocation of federal dollars, our redistricting will be more correct. They’ll be a more equitable community, more equitable distribution of resources to meet the communities that we have.” For more stories from Cronkite News, visit cronkitenews.azpbs.org.
Note: This story originally appeared on Cronkite News and is published via a Creative Commons license. Cronkite News is produced by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
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