Today, the New York Voting Rights Consortium (“NYVRC”) warned that New York could potentially lose millions of dollars because communities of color are in danger of being undercounted in the 2010 Census. As of April 5, 2010, the participation rate in New York’s most undercounted counties was far below the national average. “An undercount in 2010 will have a direct impact on resources in communities where they are needed most. We especially urge that communities of color, who are most in need of federal resources and traditionally missed during the census count, ensure they complete and return their census forms,” said John Payton, President and Director Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF).
The NYVRC highlighted the participation rates in New York City’s Hard to Count census tracts on April 5, 2010. Many Hard to Count tracts have participation rates that are falling behind the national average again. About 81 percent of the Hard to Count tracts in Bronx County; 87 percent of the Hard to Count tracts in Queens County; and a whopping 95 percent of the Hard to Count tracts in Kings County have participation rates that are less than 50 percent. “It is critical that people who have yet to return their census forms do so. The depressed participation rate in Hard to Count areas harms all New Yorkers but the impact in communities of color, and Black communities particularly, is concentrated and compounded by other economic problems,” said Jenigh Garrett, Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
(Looking back at the 2000 Census count, 1 million people of color were missed. In Bronx County alone, the cost of the 2000 undercount was over $300 million. In fact, the federal funding loss to the largest 58 counties affected by the 2000 undercounted is estimated at $2,913 per person in those jurisdictions, money that could be used to fund schools and hospitals.)
“The Center for Law and Social Justice is working to ensure a complete count of Black people in Brooklyn, in particular Central Brooklyn, home to the largest number of people of African descent in the United States. For Black people, Central Brooklyn and elsewhere, the importance of participating in the census can not be underestimated,” said Joan Gibbs, General Counsel, Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College.
Yet, many New Yorkers may not know that there is still time to be counted. Although Census Day, April 1st, has passed, households have until April 15th to return their census form before a census worker may return to their home.
Moreover, participating in the census is one way in which everyone can vote for themselves. “By participating in the census, communities of color are able to let American society in general know about their growing presence and influence. For immigrants, this means sending a message that they are here to stay and will continue to play an important part in the economy and society of the United States. Asians, Pacific Islanders, Blacks, Latinos and American Indians are the future of America and the Census quantifies this reality,” said Angelo Falcon, President, National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP); and Chair, Census Advisory Committee for the Hispanic Population.
While the Consortium encouraged participation it also pointed out current problems with the implementation of the census that may hinder a complete count and made recommendations to remedy these problems. “There is a legal obligation to participate in the census but the burden is not on community members alone. The Census Bureau must do everything it can to ensure that everyone is counted and that communities know that their information is confidential and cannot be used in any lawsuit or administrative proceeding against the individual who participates,” said Glenn Magpantay, Director, Democracy Program, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
“The Latino community must be alerted to the recent announcement by U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that no census data will be used by U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) for immigration enforcement purposes and that DHS-ICE must abide by the strict confidentiality laws protecting the census surveying process. This is an important promise to the Congress and the general public which supports having all Latino communities, including immigrants, counted without fear,” stated Cesar Perales, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
The NYVRC is a non-partisan coalition of national and local organizations including the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund, the Center for Law & Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, the Community Service Society of New York, the National Institute for Latino Policy, and LatinoJustice PRLDEF. The New York Voting Rights Consortium is committed to the full enforcement of federal and state laws that protect the voting rights of minorities