Congressman pushes for regional census office in Hidalgo County

Citing accuracy and effectiveness in determining Rio Grande Valley growth, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, penned a letter urging the U.S. Census Bureau to open a regional office in the Valley.

Addressed to Ron Jarmin, acting director of the bureau, Gonzalez’s Sept. 27 letter asked for the “prompt” opening of a Valley office “to ensure an efficient, effective and accurate” 2020 census.

“An accurate and effective Census requires adequate preparation and on the ground support,” Gonzalez said in a statement, further noting his partnership with local leaders in arguing that a regional office could “help to break a pattern of inaccurate counts in past censuses.”

Gonzalez referred to opening such an office as “a step in the right direction,” adding that a census location specifically in Hidalgo County would enable the bureau and local partners “to properly survey the population and ensure it captures the area’s recent growth.”

The congressman’s letter stems from concerns of the bureau’s ability to conduct an accurate count of Hidalgo County residents and indicated the bureau received $164 million less from congress.

“This lack of funding would inevitably lead to the cancellation, delays or streamlining of critical Census 2020 planning activities,” Gonzalez’s letter read. “Myself and the communities I represent worry that as long as inadequate support persists, Hidalgo County will be without the necessary resources to conduct a successful census.”

Gonzalez was also critical of past censuses “improperly” surveying the county’s population. He cited “a pattern of undercounting” in his letter and seeks to help the bureau obtain funding for “comprehensive” and timely censuses.

“These activities include: performing the customary dress rehearsal; finishing cost-saving and in-office address canvassing procedures; developing a robust communication campaign and language assistance programs; scaling up the IT infrastructure in the area; and opening regional census offices,” Gonzalez said in the letter. “A regional census office in Hidalgo County could not only enable Hidalgo County to properly survey our population and obtain an accurate count, but also allow our communities to more adequately capture the rapid growth that we continue to experience.”