Head of NM census: ‘Today’s the day” to get counted

During the governor’s weekly update on COVID-19 statistics, her appointee in charge of overseeing the federal census in the state urged New Mexicans to make sure they are all counted. 

Pam Coleman, the chair of the Statewide Complete Count Commission and director for the New Mexico State Personnel Office said “today’s the day to get counted.”

New Mexico has 12 days left to collect census data and Coleman said unlike COVID-19 numbers, the state needs to see higher census numbers. 

“It’s really good when numbers go up in the census,” Coleman said. “So my message to everyone listening to the press covering is that if you are waiting for the perfect day to respond to the census, today’s the day.”

Coleman said the state had a 57 percent self-response rate as of Thursday and that while it’s a “good” number it should be higher. 

She said some families may be visited by census workers, but that anyone can call to submit their information as well as submitting it online. 

Census information is not only used to count the state’s population, but also directly impacts how much money New Mexico gets from the federal government. 

Coleman said through health care, housing, education and job programs, New Mexico could see almost $8 billion a year. 

To put the potential money into perspective, Coleman said if every New Mexican is counted, the money the state receives would be equivalent to every household member receiving $10 every day. And, she said, census numbers can also help inform businesses that are considering moving to New Mexico about the potential customer base and the number of potential employees. 

“The way that all business decides to make a choice about where they move is based on census data,” she said. “If we don’t count every single, precious New Mexican, businesses cannot make their decisions with the most complete data.”

Coleman asked those who have already submitted their census information to become “census ambassadors” by encouraging others to do the same through social media, over the phone and through email. 

“You can become a census evangelist, no matter where you go,” Coleman said. 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham added that despite “negative, false information” about confidentiality, New Mexicans should not be concerned that personal details will be shared outside of the census. 

Coleman said the census is “the most important thing” New Mexican’s can do “that takes less than 10 minutes.”

“We’re counting on you New Mexico,” Coleman said. We’re counting on you to get counted, to count every single person in your household.”

Those who still need to be counted can go to the census website at 2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020 to submit their information over the phone.

Tribes in NM under intense pressure to complete census count by new deadline

With three weeks to go before the US Census is scheduled to end, 19 percent of Navajo people have responded to the U.S. Census, a much lower rate than for New Mexico and the U.S. overall, and lags behind all other tribes located within the state other than Jicarilla Apache.The once-a-decade head count of the U.S. population helps determine federal funding for healthcare, housing, roads, and a range of other important services and robust responses by tribal members ensure that their communities receive an equitable share of federal resources. 

This story was first published by New Mexico In Depth and is republished here with permission. But the census deadline looms ominously following the Trump administration’s decision in early August to abruptly move it from the end of October to September 30. Earlier this month the Navajo Nation and the Gila River Indian Community joined a lawsuit filed last month by several nonprofits, including the National Urban League and the League of Women Voters, as well as cities and counties in a number of states, to keep the census deadline at the end of October. 

There is no guarantee the court fight will end in an extended deadline, however. Over the past month, the Navajo Nation, which is one of the largest tribes in the U.S. and dwarfs other tribes in New Mexico by size, has nudged upward the number of people who have responded to the census, with responses rising from 10 percent in late July to 19 percent  this week. But that’s significantly lower than its 53.6 percent goal, presented on the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department website.

The 2020 census is doing a number on rural America. In places like Lordsburg, New Mexico, that could spell doom.

Tucked away in New Mexico’s bootheel, Lordsburg is the kind of town that hasn’t bustled in 50 years. It’s the birthplace of the state song “O Fair New Mexico” and the seat of Hidalgo County. It is also a potential ghost town, home to about 2,800 residents. Its population has been dwindling for decades. Getting an accurate count in the 2020 U.S. Census will help keep the town alive, residents say.

A grassroots organization goes digital to encourage filling out the census

One grassroots organization has turned to digital outreach and phone banking to encourage residents, especially those who are hard to reach, to fill out the 2020 census and be counted. But that wasn’t part of the original plan. Advocates for migrants, Indigenous, people of color and low income communities have said that having everyone count in the 2020 census is important. Felipe Rodriguez, a campaign manager for the grassroots organization New Mexico Dream Team, said that if just one percent of residents don’t fill out the census form this year, the state could lose hundreds of millions in federal funds over the next ten-year period. “That’s a lot of money,” Rodriguez said.

UPDATED: Trump backs off decision to abandon citizenship question

UPDATE: Wednesday afternoon, the federal government reversed their decision on whether to continue pursuing the controversial citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Trump wrote on Twitter, “We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.” And attorneys for the federal government told the court they had not heard of Trump’s position on this before his tweet. Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), which represents plaintiffs in the suit that reached the Supreme Court, reacted to the federal government’s reversal:

“Under this administration, there’s no accounting for doubling down on stupid. Unfortunately, and embarrassingly for our nation, today’s reversal from yesterday’s certainty repeats the pattern of this entire affair, which began with Secretary Wilbur Ross — who inexplicably remains in the Cabinet — lying to Congress and the public about the reason for the late attempted addition of a citizenship question to Census 2020.

The Census struggles to count all New Mexicans. Here’s why it matters

You won’t find James Ironmoccasin’s house on Google Maps. To get to his place on the northeastern edge of the Navajo Nation, head east from the 7-2-11 gas station on Highway 64 in Shiprock, take the sixth turn into “Indian Village,” a neighborhood of small, unnumbered houses on a winding, ungraded and nameless dirt lane, and follow for about a quarter mile, then turn at the dilapidated corral of horses. If he’s expecting you, Ironmoccasin, his jet-black hair parted to one side and a string of bright, traditional turquoise beads hanging around his neck, will be waiting to flag you down. “If you are kind of familiar with the area, and you’re good with directions, it’s OK,” he says with a chuckle. “I try to give the easier route.”

Though his family has lived on this square plot of land for the past 60 years, he says he can’t remember a time when any one of them — not his parents, not his sisters, not his brother, and certainly not himself — was counted in the decennial, or 10-year, U.S. census.

Balderas, other AGs sue to stop citizenship census question

Attorney General Hector Balderas says a controversial new question about citizenship on the U.S. Census questionnaire is illegal. Balderas joined a coalition of state attorneys general who filed a lawsuit to stop it. The attorneys general, led by New York AG Eric Schneiderman, along with the U.S. Conference of Mayors sued in federal court  today, saying the question would result in an illegal undercount of the population. The fear is that the question would cause an undercounting of those that fear the federal government would use the information to arrest or even deport non-citizens. The coalition argues the U.S. Constitution calls a count to determine “the whole number of persons in each state”—and has nothing to do with a person’s  legal status.

The Trump appointee behind the move to add a citizenship question to the census

In December, the Department of Justice requested that the Census Bureau add a question to the 2020 survey that would ask respondents to reveal whether or not they are U.S. citizens. Since ProPublica first reported the DOJ’s letter, civil rights groups and congressional Democrats have announced their opposition, arguing that in the midst of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, the question will lead many people to opt out of the census, resulting in an inaccurate population count. A lot is at stake. The once-a-decade population count determines how House seats are distributed and helps determine where hundreds of billions of federal dollars are spent. But one question regarding the December letter remained unclear.

Census uncertainty spurs state action to prevent undercounting

Amid fears that a lack of money will prevent an accurate count, states are gearing up to identify the people the 2020 U.S. Census is most likely to miss, from trailer-park residents in New York to people living in shantytowns in New Mexico. Residents of isolated rural areas, immigrants, and people who just don’t trust the government are among those who tend to be undercounted in the decennial census. The apportionment of U.S. House seats and nearly $590 billion in annual federal funding depend on the count, so state and local officials have a keen interest in making sure their residents don’t fall through the cracks. This story originally appeared at Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts. The current task for state and local officials is to verify the Census Bureau’s residential address list: Starting in February, the bureau will turn over address lists to states and local governments for double-checking that must be finished within 120 days.