BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr., is looking for help from U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz as he tries to get a full and accurate census count.

Currently, only 48.4 percent of households in Cameron County have filled out their 2020 census forms. If that number remains low the county will lose out on tens of millions of dollars over the next decade.

“I will tell you I am working behind the scenes to do what we can to encourage our senators to support an extension back to the original deadline of October 31, if not later, until the end of the year,” Treviño said, during a news conference held Monday.

Census Day was supposed to be April 1, 2020. That was ditched because of the coronavirus pandemic, with the U.S. Census Bureau saying it would keep the self-response period open until Oct. 31. However, recently, the agency said it would close this window on Sept. 30.

This has forced Cameron County to intensify its census outreach work, particularly in low-performing communities. Last Thursday, there was a big push to get people to complete their census forms in Port Isabel. A similar effort was made in San Benito on Friday and Santa Rosa on Saturday.

“The reality is it is not a partisan issue. If we lose count through the entire state of Texas, Texas as whole stands to lose representation and federal funding and none of us want that,” Treviño said.

Texas’ self-response rate currently stands at 59.6 percent. In Santa Rosa it is 26.1 percent. In Port Isabel it is 32.8 percent. In San Benito it is 47.5 percent, though the figure is much lower in the colonias surrounding the city.

Treviño said he is confident Cameron County will see a “positive jump” in its self-response rate as a result of the outreach work being done in low-performing communities. “We had a good couple of days and we are working on some other events,” he said.

Treviño said he needed to give a shoutout to Mr. Rene Capistran and Noble Construction and Noble Charities. At the events in Port Isabel, San Benito and Santa Rosa, Noble Texas Builders provide barbecue plates for those residents who completed their census forms. 

“He (Capistran) and his staff, in addition to all of the school board members, administrators, community members, the census people, they were wonderful. He helped get us the enticement and hopefully that will continue. Our goal is to continue to hit those low performing areas of the county, between now and September,” Treviño said.

Cameron County Clerk Sylvia Garza-Perez is leading her county’s census outreach efforts. Garza-Perez also spoke at the news conference.

“Our census is slowly but surely moving up. I think a week and a half ago we were at 47.4. Today we are 48.1, which is great. Every percent that we go up equals 1,231 households that have responded in Cameron County,” Garza-Perez said.

“We had some great events this past week. I want to give a big shoutout to my staff, which puts up with my crazy ideas, for being out there and helping take the census. I want to thank the census team and the people that work for the Census because they really came out and helped us.”

Garza-Perez also thanked county staff, referencing Constable Adrian Gonzalez in San Benito, the emergency management team, and Melissa Elizardi from the county judge’s office. 

She also thanked sheriff’s department and the cities of San Benito, Port Isabel, and Santa Rosa. 

“We had some great events this past weekend. We had an event, a census outreach event on Thursday, in Port Isabel. We had everyone out there from the city of Port Isabel, the mayor, all the commissioners, we had everyone from the school board there. We had great leadership from the superintendent, Terry Capistran. Also a big shoutout to our friends at Noble Construction, who have really been part of the community, for getting involved.”

Garza-Perez invited business owners, local hospitals, and Brownsville Public Utilities to do their part. “We need all your help because this is not something one person can put together, it has been a team effort,” she said.

Cameron County Commissioner David Garza attended the census outreach event in Port Isabel, Garza-Perez said. 

“We were able to pass 151 vehicles through the census with social distancing, the hot sun blaring, making sure we kept our distance with our masks on,” Garza-Perez said. “The reason we were out there is because that is a low performing area. We are trying to make sure we increase those percentages.”

The San Benito event attracted the city commission, the local school superintendent, school board members, Judge Treviño and Commissioner Garza, Garza-Perez said. “We did 63 vehicles, it was a little bit slower. And we gave out a bunch of good bags.”

As for the event in Santa Rosa, the entire school board came out, as did the school superintendent and the commissioners. “We did 102 vehicles on Saturday,” Garza-Perez said.

Garza-Perez explained why an accurate census count is important.

“We are talking about our kids being counted, our school districts getting the money they need from federal funding. From 2010, five percent of those not counted were children under the age of five. Those children are now ten to 15 years of age. Their school districts, wherever they are enrolled, have not received any federal funding for that child because they were not counted in 2010. We don’t want that to happen again.”

Garza-Perez said two census outreach events are coming up – one in in La Feria on Friday and one in Cameron Park on Saturday.

“I do it because I really care about our community and I want to make sure we get everybody counted. Our most important asset is our kids, we need to make sure every child has a chance,” Garza-Perez added.

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