January 19, 2010 | Larchmont-Mamaroneck Patch | Original Article

Hispanic Community Prepares for Census


4.5 million people were undercounted in the 2000 U.S. census, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials(NALEO). Ten years later, organizations nationwide want to make sure all U.S. residents (documented or undocumented) are counted in the 2010 Census.

Julissa Gutierrez from NALEO's Educational Fund

In Mamaroneck, the Hispanic Resource Center (HRC) is working so that the area's Hispanic residents are ready to fill out and submit their Census forms in April. One of its first steps was to host a Census workshop at St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Jan. 19, where representatives fromNALEO and LatinoJustice PRLDEF explained community leaders how to train others to be counted. 

HRC works with approximately 600 individuals, out of which 60 percent are undocumented. "If people are undocumented, they are very unlikely to fill out the Census form," said Director Zoe Colon, which means that approximately 360 could be undercounted this year.

The Mamaroneck School District estimates that 16 percent of the school population is Hispanic (forMamaroneck Avenue School only, that figure is 50 percent). Factoring in the students' parents and single parents, Colon estimates that the Latino population in the area "could easily be at 25 percent, "but because people don't fill out the forms, we are severely undercounted," she said. 

Other members of the community that could be undercounted are the homeless, the poor, children, those with language barriers, renters, people living in large households and individuals whose homes are being foreclosed. 

Why would individuals care if they are counted or not? Because Census data will affect political representation, funding and civil rights in their area of residence, explained Julissa Gutierrez, NALEO's Educational Fund New York director. Census data will:

1) Determine the number of congressional seats for each state and be used to draw congressional and state legislative district lines. In some communities, Census data will also determine city, county and school board seats.

2) Affect how more than $440 billion per year in federal and state funding are allocated to communities for neighborhood improvements, public health, education, transportation and more. For each uncounted Latino, NALEO estimates that more than $14,000 will be lost over the next decade.

3) Be used to enforce civil rights laws and document discrimination based on race, ethnicity and gender.

The Hispanic Resource Center, along with other organizations county-wide, received a small grant from the Westchester Community Foundation to do outreach in their communities. Considering that Yonkers has the highest percentage of Hispanics in Westchester and Mount Vernon has the highest percentage of Hispanics in the county's school districts, "we are working with organizations and houses of worship there," said Colon. 

Some of the main issues that need to be addressed within the Hispanic population are: low mail response rates, rapid Latino population growth and Latino population concentration in hard-to-count census tracts. Many Latinos won't fill out the forms because they are not aware that the information they give is confidential and only used for statistical purposes, explained Gutierrez. 

"This is the first time we'll have a bilingual form with only 10 questions," Gutierrez said. 13 million bilingual forms will be mailed to households in designated census tracts (those with large Hispanic populations) between March 15-17. Those who won't receive a bilingual form and would like to request one can do so by calling 1-866-872-6868 (for English) and 1-866-928-2010 (for Spanish)  starting Feb. 25. 

Other dates to keep in mind regarding the Census are:

- March 22-28 is "National Census Week," when local organizations will organize assistance workshops on how to fill out the form.

- April 1st is "Census Day," time to return the completed forms.

- Between April and June, Census workers will visit the homes whose forms were not received.

- On Dec 31, the U.S. Census Bureau will provide President Obama with the 2010 apportionment counts. 

If you have any questions, contact the Hispanic Resource Center at 914-835-1551 or resourcecenter@hrclm.org. They are located on Boston Post Road, next to the St. Thomas Episcopal Church.