As many as 300,000 residents who live along the Texas-Mexico border could lose millions of dollars over the next decade because they were not counted in the 2010 U.S. Census. According to Equal Voice newspaper, 95 percent of these residents, many of whom are poverty-stricken and live in unincorporated subdivisions called "colonias", were not mailed census forms. Hidalgo County has hired a lawyer and plans to sue the U.S. government for violating the protocol of mailing the forms.
Residents in colonias fit the criteria of “hard to count”, which is based on a scoring system that arranges community income, whether a family has a telephone at home, and lack fluency in English, among other factors. Recognizing that many residents in colonias are considered “hard to count”, community organizers in the area spent months explaining the importance of the count to families. In April, the organizers learned that the census forms had not been mailed to homes. Census workers planned to then knock on the doors of colonias.
Armando Garza, a city councilman in San Juan, Texas, said the strategy was the worst. “People in colonias don’t answer the door to strangers or people with federal badges.” The city councilman met twice with census officials to explore other ways to deliver the forms – but the suggestions were rejected. U.S. Census Bureau spokesperson Raul Cisneros said his office made efforts to get an accurate measure, establishing over 1,000 partnerships with community groups in the area and hiring 30 local residents to help with face-to-face counting.
About $440 billion in federal grant dollars are tied to the results nationally. The border region of Texas-Mexico is the fastest growing (and youngest) in the nation, and one that struggles with dire poverty. Garza said both federal and Texas state governments neglect the area.
“If the light company and the IRS can use the mails to find people in the colonias, how come the Census Bureau can’t?” he said.