U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez says there is a way to reverse the U.S. Census Bureau’s “shocking” undercount in South Texas. 

Gonzalez said the bureau has the ability to look at population numbers in a different way to those secured under Census 2020. However, he said authority first has to be given by the White House.

Asked if he was shocked by the new census numbers for the Rio Grande Valley, Gonzalez said: “Yes, the number did shock me. It was clear and I think everybody who lives here realizes that we were undercounted.”

Texas’ population grew by 3,999,944 over the last ten years – from 25,145,561 in 2010 to 29,145,505 in 2020. That is an increase of 15.9 percent.

Hidalgo County’s population grew by 96,012 over the last ten years – from 774,769 in 2010 to 870,781 in 2020. That is an increase of 12.4 percent.

Cameron County’s population grew by 14,797 over the last ten years – from 406,220 in 2010 to 421,017 in 2020. That is an increase of 3.6 percent.

Starr County’s population grew by 4,952 over the last ten years – from 60,968 in 2010 to 65,920 in 2020. That is an increase of 8.1 percent.

Willacy County’s population dropped by 1,970 over the last ten years – from 22,134 in 2010 to 20,164 in 2020. That is a decrease of 8.9 percent.

Valley leaders were expecting much higher figures than these – until Covid-19 struck. The pandemic forced people to stay home and not answer their doors during the census count, thereby wrecking the census outreach projects designed by Valley cities and counties.

Gonzalez said a lot of the blame for the undercount lies with Governor Greg Abbott. Texas spent relatively little on census outreach at the state level.

“Clearly it is a result of a lack of outreach and investment from our governor at the state level,” Gonzalez said.

“I think, hopefully, the United States Census Bureau in Washington can recalculate and recalibrate using formulas that can ensure we get to the right numbers this time. We are going to try to push for that.”

Asked if the Census Bureau has the authority to revise the population numbers of areas where an undercount is suspected, Gonzalez said: “They do have the authority to do that but it requires executive approval. So, they tried doing this under George W. When was it? In 2000. And he said no.”

Gonzalez said he hopes the Biden administration will react differently.

“We hope that under the Biden administration they say, yes, do what’s right. Use a formula to ensure that everybody is counted, that you have the right representation, that you get all the resources that are appropriated, according to the national formulas.”

Gonzalez added: “They (the Census Bureau) have a formula whereby they know how much were were under-represented. If they are given authority to use that, we would probably have much better representation in terms of resources, in terms of political clout. Across the country in Washington.”

Podcast: MALDEF perspective

Nina Perales. (Photo credit: American University, Washington College of Law)

Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, recently spoke about the implications of the 2020 Census on redistricting for South Texas and the border region.

Perales, who has litigated on behalf of Latino communities in two previous redistricting cycles, spoke at a board meeting of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council.

Perales said the loss of population in rural parts of Texas and the growth in its urban and suburban parts, as shown by Census 2020, was incredible.

Perales said: “We have a new and very different picture of Texas than we had before, even a decade before. The population changes are quite stunning, in fact. There is widespread and consistent loss of population in rural areas in Texas and at the same time really extraordinary population gain in Texas in large cities and suburbs. I have never seen a pattern like this and this is my third round of redistricting with MALDEF.”

Editor’s Note: Here is a podcast featuring Perales’ remarks at the LRGVDC meeting:

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