BROWNSVILLE, Texas – The Rio Grande Valley’s population grew over the last ten years, but not as much as the statewide average in Texas, and likely not as much as the region’s political leaders were hoping for.

The U.S. Census Bureau issued the official numbers for the 2020 Census on Thursday. The numbers help determine federal funding for states, counties and municipalities, and the realignment of political boundaries.

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.

Traditionally, Valley leaders always argue that their communities are undercounted because many residents, particularly those that are undocumented, do not complete the census survey. In 2020 any potential undercount was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although most Valley communities organized hardworking census outreach committees, their work was negatively impacted by the pandemic.

On top of this, then-President Trump kept talking about only counting U.S. citizens, which many have made more undocumented residents hesitate when completing their census form.

State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr.

On Valley elected official who is not happy with the new numbers is state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. He saw his home county, Cameron, recored a very modest growth of just 3.6 percent. Lucio believes the true population total is much higher than 421,017. 

“I am working hard to try to bring the true numbers to the table when it comes to redistricting because it is most important that every part of our county is represented equally. We want fair and equal representation for all,” Lucio told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“We were hoping for more people (in the Valley). I am going to have to expand my district in order to bring in the number I need.”

Webb County’s population grew by 16,810 over the last ten years – from 250,304 in 2010 to 267,114 in 2020. That is an increase of 6.7 percent.

El Paso County’s population grew by 65,010 over the last ten years – from 800,647 in 2010 to 865,657 in 2020. That is an increase of 8.1 percent.

The population growth across the United States was 7.4 percent and now stands at 331,449,281. That is 22,703,743 more than in 2010.

In Texas, the population growth has largely been fueled by an increase in minorities. People of color made by 95 percent of the state’s population growth, which mainly occurred in the big cities and their suburbs. The state’s Hispanic population is now nearly as large as the non-Hispanic white population. The Hispanic population in Texas grew by 1,980,796 and now comprises 39.25 percent of the population. This is almost equal to the Non-Hispanic White population, which accounts for 39.75 percent of the population. Among those under 18 years of age, the Hispanic percentage of the population is 48.6 percent.

Here is some of the early reaction to the Census numbers:

Joaquin Gonzalez, staff attorney with Texas Civil Rights Project:

“The Census data is clear: Texas is getting more political power in DC because of growth in our communities of color. In every redistricting cycle in the last half-century, courts have found that Texas violated the Voting Rights Act or intentionally discriminated against communities of color to dilute their vote. There are many politicians in the state who would like to see that happen again, but when the new districts are drawn this year, we must ensure that these growing populations finally get fair representation. This redistricting process is a fight for the next ten years of political power and fair representation for all Texans. If we don’t hold our lawmakers accountable to democracy, no one will.”

Arturo Vargas, CEO of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund:

“As was the case in 2010, these data reveal how the growth of the Latino community has been integral to the increase in the United States’ population. With Latinos continuing to be the nation’s second-largest population group — and a greater share of the nation’s population — it remains abundantly clear that for the nation to thrive and prosper, we must address the issues that affect Latinos throughout the country.

“The redistricting data also suggest that Latino population growth likely had a significant impact on apportionment, with Latinos being instrumental in some states securing additional congressional seats, helping states keep the number of seats they currently have, and preventing states from losing seats. Given the growth of the Latino population, it is critical that as states and localities move forward with redistricting, their maps take this growth into account, ensuring that Latinos have fair opportunities to elect candidates who are responsive and accountable to their needs.

“The 2020 Census confirmed what we have known for years: the future of the country is Latino. The 2020 Census shows that slightly more than one in four children under 18-years-old was Latino (25.7 percent). Together with the 2020 Census revealing greater overall diversity throughout the nation, this trend bodes well for the economic, cultural, and civic life of the United States.

“NALEO Educational Fund continues to analyze the data to determine if there are other trends of interest.  We will also continue our advocacy to ensure Latinos have a strong voice in the redistricting process at all levels of government.  Ultimately, the maps that emerge must provide the community with fair representation and our nation with a more robust democracy.”

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