Colonias to Immigrants: We Need You at Census Time

By: - November 18, 2019 12:00 am

Young boys ride a bike through a colonia in Hidalgo County, Texas. Communities in high-immigrant areas are seeking to avoid being undercounted in the 2020 census, which would sap both political representation and federal funding. Eric Gay/The Associated Press

Read more Stateline coverage of the 2020 census.

HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas — In this colonia near the Mexico border, an area of sometimes makeshift housing south of Edinburg, neighborhood residents are learning when to, and when not to, speak up to authorities when you’re living in the country illegally.

Caught driving without a license? “What do you do? We’ve told you! Don’t say anything, don’t sign anything,” said Cristela Rocha, a community organizer for the immigrant advocacy group LUPE, La Union del Pueblo Entero, at a recent gathering with residents.

But when it comes to next year’s census? That’s the time to be as forthcoming as possible: Fill out forms on the age and race of everyone who lives with you, even distant relatives or a friend sleeping in your shed or garage.

The community meeting, organized by LUPE, highlights the problem communities face in high-immigrant areas seeking to avoid an undercount in the 2020 census, a problem that can sap both political representation and federal funding.

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Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson

Tim Henderson covers demographics for Stateline. He has been a reporter at the Miami Herald, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Journal News.