Editor’s Note: As part of her work to ensure New México receives its fair share of resources and representation, Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01) delivered the keynote address to the recent Statewide Census 2020 Gathering.
Thank you for the opportunity to highlight something so important as the 2020 Census. As I look into the crowd today, I can’t help but be inspired by you all and your commitment to make sure every New Mexican is counted. Thank you all for being ready to work and showing your deep love and understanding of our community. The work you are doing is invaluable.
I don’t have to tell you all how important participation in this upcoming Census is. We have a lot at stake. From funding for important programs to representation in Washington DC, being counted and being seen by the rest of the country is crucial for the future of New México and our families.
As many of you know, New México is one of the hardest states to count. But, with the work you are all doing on the ground, we can change that. We have won many battles in the fight for a fair and safe census.
Most recently, we stopped a question that would intentionally instill fear and deter members of our immigrant community from participating. This Administration’s malicious attempt to add a citizenship question to the Census would have hurt New México’s most vulnerable communities and families. The decision to halt adding a citizenship question to the Census is a temporary victory. The fight is not over, and we will need every group, every leader, and every organization to come together and ensure that every New Mexican is counted without being afraid to participate.
There has been a lot of talk about the census in the news this year, and how we decide who is and who is not counted during the process.
I want to be very clear – every single person in our state counts.
The mission of the census is to paint an accurate picture of the changing face of América. Our democratic system finds its foundation in the accurate representation of our people and that makes our census a pillar of our democracy. An inaccurate Census would make undercounted and vulnerable communities throughout New México even more vulnerable.
As I am sure many of you know, the final number decides how many seats each state receives in the House of Representatives. This representation is essential to strengthening our voice as New Mexicans in Congress.
However, there is so much more to this count than simply representation. A substantial proportion of federal funding is distributed on the basis of the population data gathered through the Census. In 2008, census-guided grants accounted for $419.8 billion, in nationwide federal grant funding that year which is about about 75 percent of all grant funding.
For Native communities, this process is even more important.
When the tribal community is undercounted our needs are not prioritized and we will continue to see disparities in health and wellbeing of our people. The Census is crucial to the federal government’s trust responsibility to Native Nations. If we want the funding that we deserve, and that will help families thrive, it is essential to have an accurate count.
Recent estimates show some areas of the state are only 50% accurate.
This results in our State losing approximately $3,700 for each person the census doesn’t count.
According to Counting for Dollars, if just 15% of our state’s total count is inaccurate, New México stands to lose more than $9 billion. Can you imagine what that funding would mean for our schools, infrastructure, and public safety?
This past year Governor Lujan Grisham published an executive order which established the New México 2020 Complete Count Commission.
In New México we recognize this urgency. Thanks to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Legislature our state appropriated $3.5 million to assist local and tribal governments in their efforts to count each and every New Mexican.
Our state’s dedication to facing these challenges head on is the first step, but the obstacles are great. If we are going to fix these issues, we will need all of your help. We will need folks to volunteer for the complete count committees being formed across New México.
The Census Bureau will be hiring hundreds of enumerators, and we need to fill those positions. It’s an all hands-on deck effort.
If we want our state to have every opportunity to prosper in the next decade, we must have an accurate census count.
Every person in New México ultimately benefits from the work you do, even if they don’t realize it yet. You all will be discussing how we show that the Census directly benefits our communities and how we convince people that this is important.
We won’t let fear or this Administration’s attempts to disenfranchise communities across this country get in the way of making our voices heard and making sure that our communities have what we need to thrive.
I want you all to know that I’m your ally in this effort – I will be using my platform to ensure everyone knows how important the Census is and I want to keep in touch with you all.
Keep up the good fight, BE FIERCE, and thank you.
Congresswoman Deb Haaland represents New México’s District 1.
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