At the end of last month, we reported on LUPE’s door-to-door campaign in the colonias to find out how many residents had not received forms and help them report problems with the Census process.
Even after colonia leaders and LUPE organizers spent over 150 hours walking door-to-door and many residents reported Census issues, a number of residents still have not received Census forms or been visited by a Census representative.
This past Monday, colonia residents were visited by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal investigating the issues around the colonia undercount. Ana Campoy visited the colonia Eduardos 8 north of Mission to ask residents about their experience with the Census. Campoy visited 5 homes of which 3 had been counted and 2 had not been counted.
One of the residents she spoke to that had been counted was Jacqueline Castillo, one of the original residents of the 3 year old colonia. Though she did receive her Census form, she said that it was almost destroyed because it was left outside of her house and it was raining by the time she found it. She quickly called colonia leader Guadalupe Martínez and together they were able to save seven of their neighbors’ forms from the rain.
And just this morning, LUPE leaders Francisco Martinez and Sergio Narvaez, accompanied by LUPE organizer Javier Parra and Precinct 3 Chief Administrator Dr. Mona Parras, uncovered more discouraging information when they found that only 3 of the 35 homes they visited in the colonia of Western Palm had been counted.
“We are discouraged by these findings,” says organizer Martha Sanchez, “since we had already passed out this info to the Census.”
Issues with the Census cropped up this past April, when after months of working with community-based organizations to raise awareness and trust in the Census, and saying colonia residents would receive forms through the mail, the Census Bureau abruptly changed their plans and announced they would instead be sending Census workers door to door. This move was highly criticized. Census workers would be unfamiliar with colonias and unprepared for the challenges of a door-to-door campaign in the colonias. Then they announced they would be leaving forms outside doors, inviting even more criticism. Residents don’t have mailboxes or porches in front of their homes, the criticism went, and forms would get lost or damaged.
These criticisms were proven to be founded when by last Friday many colonia residents had yet to receive forms or visits from Census workers. Colonia leaders also began hearing stories of forms being left outside doors under rocks and forms blown away by the wind or getting rained on. Rather than in the front of their homes, mailboxes are often grouped at the entrance of the colonia. Were residents to have received forms in the mail as originally planned, there would not have been so many lost and damaged forms.
LUPE Organizer Martha Sanchez says she hopes the Census Bureau will adopt all the lessons learned from our involvement so as to get a better count next Census. Through the exposure that the Wall Street Journal gives the issue, talking publicly about our concerns and criticism, and creating stronger relationships with Census Bureau officials, like the one we’ve created with Hector Lopez, we will be able to affect how the Bureau works with our community next time around.
But our commitment to an accurate count this time around stays strong. LUPE will do whatever it can to connect with those households that have still not been counted. Colonia resident Yadira Izaguirre told us a story that emphasized why the resources the Census brings to the county are so important. She told us of how the children ride 4 to a seat on the bus on the way to school every morning. Even like that not all the children fit and a second bus must come through every day.
“They have to fight for a seat,” she said. “That’s not the way it should be.”