RIO HONDO, Texas – If, as a recent news report stated, Texas is finally going to promote the 2020 Census, some of the money needs to come to the Rio Grande Valley.

This is the view of Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Cameron County Commissioner David Garza, and Noble Texas Builders President and CEO Rene Capistran. All three attended a census outreach event in Rio Hondo on Thursday evening. 

On Tuesday, the Texas Tribune reported that the State of Texas is going to spend $15 million to promote the importance of Texans filling out their census forms. The story noted that up until now the state had spent zero dollars. 

“They should have been doing that from the beginning,” said Treviño, when he heard about the new advertising push. “We are one of the few states that doesn’t allocate any resources to the census.”

The self-response period ends on Sept. 30. According to the Tribune story, the state’s decision to launch an census advertising campaign was likely driven by partisan considerations. The story says the self-response rate in rural areas, which are Republican strongholds, is lower than in urban areas, which largely to favor Democrats.

“I hope the money does not just go to the rural areas because the Valley, the border, from here to El Paso, the border communities have been underrepresented and undercounted for decades so we need those resources. And that helps the state, regardless of whether it is D or R. The census helps all of us,” Treviño said.

Asked if the money should go on TV spots on Spanish-language channels in the Valley, Treviño said: “Those spots all around the entire state ought to be In English and Spanish because we know the Hispanic population is prevalent throughout the entire state. It only serves to benefit all of us to make sure the message is out there in both English and Spanish.”

Treviño said he was astonished the State of Texas has not spent any money to promote Census 2020 thus far. 

“I had a conversation meeting yesterday with Senator Cruz. Just like I told Senator Cornyn a few weeks ago, I said, you are not going to tell me that Texas hasn’t grown by leaps and bounds over the last ten years. You are not going to tell me that Cameron Count y and the Rio Grande Valley hasn’t grown by leaps and bounds,” Treviño said.

“So if our numbers were to show, the way they are right now, that we have had basically zero or very little growth if any, throughout the state, and we stand to lose congressional districts and representation? That should be a bipartisan issue where we are all in favor of making sure that Texas has its full representation and voice heard in Washington, so, let’s all get together.”

Treviño said because so many Valley families have been preoccupied with the coronavirus crisis, they could have forgotten about the census.

“That money needs to come down here. Just like the governor knew we needed help during COVID, he knows that the Valley has grown by leaps and bounds and we need his help to make sure everybody gets counted down here,” he said.

When he learned the State of Texas may be promoting the census because the self-response rate is lagging in rural areas, Commissioner Garza said: “Unfortunately, probably, they are doing it for the wrong reasons but at the end of the day we will all benefit if it is properly done. It is not a partisan issue.”

Noble Texas Builders has been barbecuing at census outreach events held in low-performing areas in Cameron County. If a resident comes to an event and completes the census they get a barbecue plate.

Noble Texas Builders’ Capistran said he was proud of turnout at a census outreach event in Rio Hondo.

“The school district, the city, the county, they all helped. Great things happen when different entities come together for one common goal. It worked out great,” he said. 

Asked if he would like to see state advertising dollars being spent on promoting the census in the Valley, Capistran said: “When you have Hidalgo County number four and Cameron County number five as the worst hit areas for COVID in Texas, our focus is somewhere else, protecting our community and our citizens, But, we know how important our census is. That is why we are out here today. I believe we do deserve a portion of that money to really help our community get the people signed up.”

Capistran said he, too, could not believe the State of Texas has not promoted Census 2020.

“That is a shortfall on the part of the state and I really hope that the governor’s office and the governor really see what is happening. Shame on us if we do not get to that point. We do need to pick up the phone and call our state representatives and our senators and tell them, you need to represent us here. We need to be a united voice for the census.”

State District Judge Migdalia Lopez was also at the Rio Hondo census event. 

“It is a fantastic turnout. This helps us with our numbers and helps us with our money that we need. Otherwise we will be losing. We will be leaving that money on the table. And that is terrible. We cannot allow that,” Lopez said.

Editor’s Note: Cameron County Clerk Sylvia Garza-Perez also attended the Rio Hondo census outreach event. We will be featuring her work on ensuring a high self-response rate in Cameron County in our next edition. 

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