McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Four congressional lawmakers from the Texas border have asked to meet with the head of the U.S. Census Bureau to discuss an “undercount” along the Texas-Mexico border.
U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar, Filemon Vela and Vicente Gonzalez, of South Texas, along with U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, of El Paso, all Democrats, sent new Census Director Robert Santos a letter earlier this month complaining that the border region was not properly counted in the 2020 Census. They say a miscount could reduce much needed federal resources from being sent to the border region.
U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Republican, was the only Texas lawmaker representing the border who did not sign on to the letter.
The letter, sent Jan. 10, acknowledges the difficulties of conducting the decennial census during the coronavirus pandemic, but it also alleges that the Trump administration “made several attempts to depress census participation,” and they wrote this “exacerbated the undercount of persons of color.”
“An accurate count is critical to ensuring that federal resources are fairly distributed. The census has long struggled to count communities of color — especially Black and Latino communities,” they wrote.
They cited an Urban Institute report stating the Texas population was undercounted by 1.28%. As such, the report stated that “Texas residents will receive less of their fair share of federal funding for infrastructure, health care, and children’s programs.”
The report estimates that Texas should receive $247 million more in 2021 federal Medicaid reimbursements.
Those living along the Texas-Mexico border are among the poorest. Many live in colonias, and they said are among the hardest to count.
“Unfortunately, undercounts are not unusual. Populations along the U.S.- Mexico border region are particularly difficult to reach, especially Hispanic families living in isolated rural colonias. The border colonias were among some of the most undercounted regions in the 2010 census and there are concerns the 2020 census undercount could be similarly large. However, it is important that we work to resolve this issue. Therefore, we request a meeting with you to discuss this issue further,” they wrote.
Census Bureau officials told Border Report that Santos, who took over the Bureau on Jan. 5, has received the letter.
“The U.S. Census Bureau is in receipt of the letter. We will review and respond in a timely manner. We look forward to continued communications on this matter,” a Census Bureau spokesperson wrote in an email Tuesday.
Vela said they will continue to push for a face-to-face meeting to ensure Hispanics along the border are properly represented.
“People of color, specifically Latinos in South Texas, continue to be underrepresented,” Vela told Border Report. “With the federal funding allocated from the results of the U.S. Census, it is critical to have each and every individual counted to provide resources needed in our communities. I joined my colleagues in calling upon the U.S. Census Bureau to recognize an important undercount of our U.S./Mexico border communities that results in critical funding that benefits all Americans.”
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.