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Community Leaders Urge Arizona Latinos To Participate In Census On César Chávez Day

Latinos community leaders honored César Chávez Day on March 31 by stressing the importance of an accurate census count. 

State Rep. Raquel Terán referenced a Chávez quote where he said “the day will come when the politicians do right by our people out of political necessity and not out of charity or idealism.” 

Terán said in order for this to become a reality, Arizona Latinos need to be counted. 

As of Sunday, 33.3% of Arizona households have responded to the 2020 census online, by mail or by phone. That puts the state’s self-response average slightly behind the nation’s average of 34.7%.

But Anakarina Rodriguez with the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials said Pinal and Yuma counties with hard-to-count Latino populations are further behind. The counties’ self-response rates so far are 30.9% and 22.8% percent respectively, she said. 

“Because of the current environment that we are facing and the adjustments that the Census Bureau has made to operations, we need to encourage self-response online like never before,” Rodriguez said.  

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero added that many Arizona children, especially Latino youth in Maricopa County, tend to go undercounted. She said 62% of Latino children live in or near poverty in the United States. She thinks it’s because people of color tend to be difficult to find since they often live in multi-unit buildings. 

Romero said undercounts reduce federal funding for state programs such as Head Start and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children which support low-income families. 

“The census is equally important as voting,” Romero said. “It is our responsibility to report our numbers so that we have a fair distribution of federal funds, but also a fair distribution of congressional districts so that our voices are heard.” 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau has extended the self-response period to Aug. 14. 

Rocio Hernandez was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2022.