Written by: Director Robert Groves
This Midwestern kid traveled the Texas-Mexico border over the last few days.
I learned a lot, under the tutelage of our area partnership and geography specialists. I wanted to learn several things from the visit: a) what was the housing pattern inside the “colonias,” smallish clusters of housing, often low income, with densely filled units, b) what kinds of problems did we encounter in listing units in areas that will be mailed questionnaires, and c) what strategies were we using to assure those living in the areas that it was safe to respond to the 2010 Census, regardless of their documentation status. I’ll do a couple of different blog entries on these issues.
The word “colonia” is both a state of Texas designation, providing some focused services to the area, and a general, lay term for such settlements. Colonias are highly varied in the quality of the housing, roads, and social services. All of them, however, have some units with added rooms, often cobbled together in a makeshift way. Many have trailers connected to permanent structures; some have a series of very small one-room structures on a single lot. Many countries have such settlements among its poorest groups, and they pose real challenges to censuses.
It’s likely that many who live there do not have legal documentation; some areas have gang activity and other crime problems. We are partnering with individuals within the colonias and those that provide health and other services to the areas. They know those who live there individually; they know their families. We will hire enumerators who live in the colonias whenever possible, so that some credibility is leant to our efforts to count everyone.
The people who live in these areas depend greatly on health, education and social services provided by programs informed by census data. They need to be counted to get their fair share of such funding.
However, these are some of the most difficult areas to enumerate, because of fear, distrust, and lack of understanding that the Census Bureau is independent of enforcement agencies of the Federal government. That’s the message we are delivering; for the future of these people, I hope the message is understood and believed.