Hispanic Census

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We examine the importance of the census to the Hispanic community’s political power.

>>Ted Simons: Barack Obama's campaign and the Democratic national committee announced today they are reserving $20 million to target Hispanic voters across the nation. Hispanic voters are poised to play a key role in this year's presidential election. That's because Hispanics are now the largest minority group in the country. To come to that conclusion, there must be a census of Hispanics. At the latest conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the importance of the census was discussed, as well as the challenges of counting a community where some live in the shadows. Mike Sauceda tells us more from Washington.

>>Mike Sauceda: The 25th annual National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials held its annual conference this year in Washington DC. NALEO is made up of over 6,000 Hispanic elected and appointed officials, and has grown from a very small organization, and as the Latino population in the United States grow, it has fostered growth. Dr. Steve Murdock is the Director of the US Census.

>>Dr. Steve Murdock: The Hispanic population is the fastest growing segment of the US population for a number of decades. That population tripled from 1980 to 2007. There's 45 million Hispanics, compared to about 15 million in 1980. It's an increasing diverse population, in terms of being from various parts of Latin America and South America. It's a very important and growing segment of the US society.

>>Mike Sauceda: Dr. Murdock gave a snapshot of demographics of the growing Hispanic population which is spreading throughout the nation.

>>Dr. Steve Murdock: It's a younger population, certainly. If you look at it relative to non-Hispanic Whites, they are about a decade younger in terms of median-age terms. They are basic variety of groups, largest single group of course, is Mexican origin. The income of Hispanics, depending on where you are, is somewhere between 55-75% of income for Non-Hispanic Whites. Education levels are still an issue. Dropout rates are, unfortunately, relatively high for Hispanics. There's progress being made, but the associated characteristics, particularly education, is troublesome one for most States, as you look at this population. Most Hispanics, historically about 60%, said they were White and 4o% said they were from the other category. There's a sprinkling of some of those percentages into other ethnic groups. The other category of race is one that probably reflects in part not knowing which of the categories to respond to. That's has been the historic pattern.

>>Mike Sauceda: An accurate count the census every 10 years is absolutely critical to growing Latino political power, as discussed by the Maryland State Representative Ana Sol Gutierrez at a NALEO Breakout session, where local leaders were briefed on the topic.

>>Ana Sol Gutierrez: But I would like to emphasize that why is it important? And from a personal perspective, clearly, clearly what is number one is the funding. The money that gets tied to all those programs that need to have the data in order to provide the services from the Federal Government into the state and into local municipal government. So, that is very important for us to understand. And the second one is the representation.

>>Mike Sauceda: Recent immigration raids and general crackdowns and mean-spirited rhetoric on immigration concerns people like Sol-Gutierrez and Dr. Murdock that an accurate count will not be reached within the Hispanic community. That is coupled with the fact that there has been an undercount in the past among Hispanics.

>>Dr. Steve Murdock: There has been, historically, an undercount of Hispanics, versus the non-Hispanic White population. Not only Hispanics, but African-Americans and others as well. We count all citizens of the United State. We do not differentiate. We do not ask about citizenship in the Census. Our goal -- our job, if you will -- as required by the Constitution is to count everyone, no matter what their citizenship status is. And this is a challenge. We're hoping with our partnership program to enlist local people, local communities to help get through the very important message that the Census is safe, and the information is confidential. We don't share it with any other Federal agency or local law enforcement, or any agency. These data is simply for the purposes of counting and looking at the characteristics of the American people.

>>Mike Sauceda: Sol Gutierrez shares the concerns of many Hispanics leaders in getting an accurate count, and worries that mischief may even play a role.

>>Ana Sol Gutierrez: For example, I think we can all understand as the numerators are hired, what would prevent the Minutemen from ensuring that they have people within the system? They are not going to get into a protected data files but say just one, one incidence of that known within our community, and you have blown all the trust that you might have been able to build.

>>Mike Sauceda: The Census is aware of those issues, and is hoping to get the help of groups like NALEO to make people feel comfortable in answering the Census. An ad campaign is planned.

>>Dr. Steve Murdock: The 2000 Census was actually the first time we had paid advertising. Our analysis suggests that that was effective in getting a better count. This time, we have an integrated program that integrates not only paid advertising, but other forms of reaching out to communities of all types, and integrates closely with our partnership program. Our partnership program is our key program for reaching out to hard-to-reach populations.

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