EDINBURG, TEXAS – ARISE Adelante, a nonprofit that helps immigrant families in Hidalgo County, has embarked on a major undertaking – getting residents that live in hard-to-count areas counted. 

The deadline for Census 2020 in September 30 and currently the Rio Grande Valley’s self-response rate is low. The rate in Hidalgo County, for example, is 49.9 percent. The rate for Texas as a whole is 59.2 percent. The national average is 64.0 percent.

“We have a lot of work to do before September 30,” said Lesslly Armendariz, a community organizer with ARISE Adelante. “We are visiting the hard-to-count communities where the census participation rate is low. It is so important people in the colonias fill out the census forms.”

ARISE Adelante has centers in Alamo, Las Milpas, Edinburg and Hargill. Each week members and supporters of the group from one of the centers organizes a caravan of cars to tour various colonias.

This week it was the turn of those based in the Muniz center east of Edinburg. Among the colonias visited were Valverde Terrazas, Concho Heights, Alberto Veros, Alberta Springs, Muniz, and Herencia. 

“The reaction was good. We had a lot of kids come out because we were honking our horns. Some of the parents came out too,” Armendariz said. 

Just like local school districts, ARISE Adelante is getting the children involved because they know they are likely to tell parents and grandparents just how important the census is. Hundreds of millions dollars are riding on a good census number.

Armendariz acknowledged that her group’s efforts have not been helped by the Trump administration. Recently, the president sent out a memo urging the Census Bureau not to count undocumented immigrants. 

“This memo has had an impact. It has built up some fear in our community,” Armendariz said. 

“But, we are explaining to the people that it is in the Constitution that everyone gets counted. Everyone has the right to be counted, no matter their immigration status or race or circumstance. We are telling people to take it easy, not to succumb to fear. That Trump cannot do this and you can be counted.”

Armendariz said she was pleased to hear that the Mexican American Legislative Caucus in Austin had written to the Texas congressional delegation to urge the census count be extended to next spring.

“We would support it being extended because it would mean a better count. But, we must continue with our census outreach program because it is not a sure thing. We have to continue to encourage residents to fill out the forms. We have to do as much as we can.”

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