Determined to safeguard federal dollars directed to fund projects that benefit Doral residents, City of Doral Councilwoman Claudia Mariaca hosted a meeting with representatives from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund and South Florida officials. At the gathering, NALEO presented their perspective on the development of the 2020 Census and the challenges that affect Latinos. The information provided served resourceful to the representatives of different municipalities and entities, who in turn go back to their respective governing bodies to present qualified recommendations.
Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau undertakes the task of counting all the people living in the United States and recording basic information such as age, sex, and race. The collection of this data is mandated as part of the Constitution to determine fair allocation of congressional representation and billions of dollars in federal funding to Florida that trickle down to municipalities such as the City of Doral.
After his presentation, Mr. Arturo Vargas, NALEO’s Education Fund Executive Director, expressed, “Ensuring everyone is counted in Census 2020 is the only way to guarantee that elected officials in the Sunshine State and across the country are able to allocate resources to those who need it most. From deciding where to build schools to benefit students, to dispatching assistance in the wake of natural disasters, leaders in South Florida and the nation need reliable and accurate census data to best serve their constituents.” Vargas went on to say, “Leaders like City of Doral Councilwoman Claudia Mariaca and the mayors, councilmembers and community leaders from nearby cities who joined us for a meeting to discuss Census 2020 are already stepping up to the plate to ensure a full and fair count of the Hispanic community. As respected and trusted figures in their communities, these South Florida leaders have a critical role to play communicating the importance of participation in our nation’s decennial count to their constituents.”
From 2000 – 2010, the state of Florida gained two seats in U.S. Congress, where the Hispanic community played a key role accounting for 51% of the population growth in the 2010 Census. Additionally, data from George Washington University shows that Florida received more than $29.3 billion dollars (FY 2015) in federally allocated dollars based on the state’s Census 2010 count, to fund projects including health services, highway construction, disaster relief, and water pollution control.
However, there are a few challenges that risk millions of dollars from being allocated to Florida, to which NALEO’s main concern is an addition of the question “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” into the questionnaire. The Department of Justice and the Secretary of Commerce justified the additional by citing the need for better voting rights enforcement. However, NALEO considers that data from the American Community Survey, and the census “long” form before that, are sufficiently robust for civil rights and Voting Rights Act enforcement. The decennial census has not included a citizenship question since 1950, prior to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
In some states with ample Latino population, such as Florida, there is a fear that the citizenship question will deter participation, resulting in far less accurate data, and reducing funding for programs. Nonetheless, under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, census data can only be used for statistical purposes, personal information may not be used against respondents in court or by a government agency. All personal census information cannot be disclosed for 72 years.
Miami-Dade County School Board Member Lubby Navarro, who was recently appointed to the NALEO Board of Directors, commented, “The 2020 Census will be extremely challenging for hard to count populations such as the diverse Latino community in Miami-Dade County. We must begin to educate our community now about the importance of being counted, as it will affect funding coming into our local communities and representation for the next 10 years.”
In closing the meeting, Councilwoman Mariaca extended her appreciation to NALEO and participants, expressing, “We all need to be proactive to encourage our communities to take the survey and be counted. This is critical in our joint efforts to enhance the quality of life of our constituents.”