January 21, 2010 | Rio Grande Guardian | Original Article

Cuellar to receive daily reports on census participation levels along border

ALTON, Jan. 21 - U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar is to receive daily reports from the Census Bureau on how many census forms are being returned via mail from the Texas-Mexico border region.

Cuellar requested the reports at a meeting with Census Bureau Director Robert Groves in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. At the meeting, Cuellar again voiced concerns about the advertising campaign the Census Bureau is mounting and whether sufficient media buys will be placed with Spanish language TV and radio stations along the border. The reports will start landing on Cuellar’s desk on March 19.

The Census Bureau has recognized that communities along the Texas-Mexico border region fall within the agency’s “hardest to count” category. Mary Lou Cavazos, the Census Bureau’s outreach coordinator for border colonias, told the Guardian last month that the Rio Grande Valley is among the hardest to count regions of the country because of its high immigrant population. Cavazos saw first hand how challenging the outreach is when she visited the El Flaco colonia in Alton on Monday. Cuellar represents Alton residents in Congress.

“These ‘hard to count’ communities will be among the most important to penetrate during the 2010 Census this April,” said Cuellar, D-Laredo. “I had serious questions about how effectively the Census Bureau was advertising the 2010 Census along the border. As a result of yesterday’s meeting we now have a contingency plan set in place.”

The daily reports will allow Cuellar to analyze how effective the Census Bureau’s outreach to border communities is going. If it is not progressing at a satisfactory level a contingency plan will be mounted. The contingency plan will involve Groves using additional funds for border colonia outreach.

The Valley has 80 percent of all the colonias in the nation. Groves visited numerous colonias in the Valley on an unannounced visit last month. Cavazos took him to colonias from Brownsville to Donna. They also visited some RV parks because there is also concern that many Winter Texans may not fill out their census forms. Cuellar said Groves agreed to visit the border region again.

Cuellar is the only Hispanic and Texas member on the House Subcommittee on Information, Policy, Census and National Archives. This panel has oversight of the Census Bureau.

As first reported in the Guardian, Cuellar requested detailed information from Groves on how the Census Bureau plans to mount its advertising campaign for Census 2010. Cuellar said he has received assurances that a variety of national television, local radio, newspaper and local television advertisements will be visible throughout the McAllen, Laredo, El Paso, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Houston media markets. However, some local counties, including Webb, Zapata and Jim Hogg, all of which are in Cuellar’s district, will not see local television advertising.

“Our local media partners are the primary resources for information in our communities,” Cuellar said. “That’s why it’s important for the 2010 Census to use our local media as the primary vehicle to carry their message.”

Census Day is April 1. In March, the Census Bureau will send census forms to more than 130 million addresses across the nation. The questionnaire is one of the shortest Census forms in history, with only ten questions to answer. Cavazos and elected officials such as Cuellar have worked hard to reassure border residents that information provided to the Census Bureau will be protected. Under federal law it cannot be accessed by agencies such as ICE or Border Patrol.

The census is conducted once every decade to gauge the nation’s population. It influences how more than $400 billion per year in federal funding is distributed to state, local and tribal governments based on the number of people living in each locality.

The census is also used to configure new congressional lines. Because of population growth, Texas could be in line to gain three or four extra congressional seats. Depending on how complete a count there is, one of those extra congressional seats could be created in South Texas.


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