MCALLEN, RGV – U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar says the reason the state of Texas put zero dollars into a census outreach program was a fear that more minorities would be counted.
Cuellar spoke about the 2020 Census during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. Asked what he thought of the fact that Texas state leaders resisted calls to fund a statewide census outreach program, Cuellar said:
“As a former state Rep., I really wish the State of Texas, when we did Obamacare, they would have expanded healthcare because there were billions of dollars that were there. As a former state Rep., I wish they would have taken hundreds of millions of dollars that were available for the CHIP program, which the state of Texas did not do.
“As a former state Rep., yes, I wish they would have put money to help count people. They know it is the minorities where you have to put a little bit more effort to get them counted and they probably don’t want to over-do that. I will say that respectfully, even though they won’t admit it.”
During last year’s 86th legislative session, state Rep. Cesar Blanco of El Paso filed legislation to have the state of Texas fund census outreach work. Blanco could not win support for the measure from the state leadership.
Conducted every ten years, the census is constitutionally required. The results determine the number of seats in the House of Representatives each state gets and impacts the dispersal of billions of federal dollars, among other things.
Cuellar is a member of the House Committee omg Appropriations. He said that as an appropriator, he helped ensure the U.S. Census Bureau received an additional $3.5 billion for this years budget. He said he also added language to an appropriations bill requiring the Census Bureau to put more outreach efforts into historically hard-to-count areas, such as border colonies.
“The language I have is that they increase outreach activity in historically undercounted communities, such as colonias. There are other undercounted communities across the nation, but I specifically put colonias (into the bill). And to make sure they provide the language assistance, therefore they have to know Spanish. I have to say the Census has been doing a much better job compared to ten years ago.”
Cuellar said he believes the U.S. Census Bureau is doing a better job reaching into historically hard-to-count areas, such as colonias, than it did ten years ago. In 2010, he said, census enumerators did a poor job of counting children under the age of five in his hometown of Laredo.
Cuellar said he has spent a lot of time with the Census managers, making sure they have Spanish-speaking enumerators and that historically hard-to-count areas are not ignored.
“There are are specific instructions in the appropriations telling them to improve the census count in colonias. Usually the areas that need federal funds or state funds are the areas where we have to work harder so they can participate in the count.”
Cuellar said colonia residents can rest assured that whatever information they give the Census Bureau when they fill out their census form will not be shared with any other agency.
“The overall good is to have everybody counted, no matter if you are Anglo, Black or Hispanic or whatever. We have got to have everybody counted,” Cuellar said, pointing out that, because of its population growth, Texas is in line to secure an additional three more members of Congress.
“If we count this we get more members of Congress. Last census we had four (new members of Congress). Now we are going to have three (more). No other state is growing like the state of Texas,” Cuellar said. “We will go from 36 two 39. And, of course, more funds will come in.”
While Texas has invested zero dollars in census outreach work, California lawmakers have appropriated an additional $187 million for this purpose. California is in danger of losing one of its 53 congressional seats, if there is a large undercount.
According to a study by the Urban Institute, a think tank that conducts social and economic research, Florida, California, Georgia, New York, Nevada, Texas, and New Mexico have the highest risk for undercounting during Census 2020.
Here are the key findings from the study:
- The undercount of the US population overall in 2020 could range from 0.27 percent in the low-risk scenario to 1.22 percent in the high-risk scenario.
- Some states face a greater risk of undercounts because they have large populations of historically undercounted groups. California has the greatest undercount risk, with projected 2020 undercounts ranging from 0.95 percent (low risk) to 1.98 percent (high risk). Other states at risk for serious undercounts are Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Georgia, New York, and Florida.
- The miscounts may disproportionately affect some groups more than others. Black and Hispanic/Latinx-identified individuals in the high-risk scenario could be undercounted nationally by 3.68 percent and 3.57 percent, respectively.
- White, non-Hispanic/Latinx individuals could be overcounted nationally by 0.03 percent in the high-risk scenario. States with the greatest potential for overcounts include Vermont, West Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, and Montana. These states have large populations of white, non-Hispanic/Latinx residents.
- Children younger than 5, who have historically been undercounted, are at risk of being undercounted by as much as 6.31 percent in the high-risk scenario.