EDITORIAL: A Census undercount of Hidalgo Co. is not an option

High praise to Hidalgo County Commissioners who on Tuesday voted unanimously to hire a lawyer to represent the county as it plans to join a lawsuit with other states and municipalities in an effort to hopefully block the U.S. Census Bureau from asking a question of citizenship on the 2020 Census.

Hidalgo County Commissioners voted to hire lawyer Rolando Rios, of San Antonio, who has twice before represented the county on Census-related issues. Rios represented Hidalgo County in a joint lawsuit with Cameron County against the Department of Commerce contending an undercount in 2000. He also represented Hidalgo County in a challenge following the 2010 Census, Hidalgo County Public Affairs Director Julia Benitez Sullivan told us.

Rios knows well our county and our demographics and understands legitimate concerns by Hidalgo County Commissioners that asking a question as sensitive as citizenship could deter many here from answering the Census. And that could cost our county money — millions of dollars in state and federal funding, Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia has said. For every person not counted, Hidalgo County could lose out on $1,578, that’s $15,780 per person per decade.

“Our government divides up all the entitlement funds based on population and under our Constitution, everyone who is residing in this country needs to be counted. It doesn’t say only citizens,” Judge Garcia told commissioners April 10.

We cannot afford an undercount. In a Tuesday editorial, The Monitor Editorial Board encouraged commissioners to join the lawsuit, which they voted to do Tuesday after 40 minutes in executive session.

“Our voices aren’t being represented by our state’s leadership. It is clear we must act on this disconnect between our region’s priorities and those of the state,” Garcia said in a statement.

Hidalgo County plans to join a national lawsuit that is spearheaded by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and includes the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, as well as various cities and counties.

“We have been undercounted in 2000. We have been undercounted in 2010 and we want to make sure we have a strong voice to avoid any undercounting in 2020,” Garcia said on April 10.

We wholeheartedly agree and believe joining this lawsuit is money well spent.

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