Amid the news that the Supreme Court will hear arguments that could impact the legality of whether or not a citizenship question can be included in the Decennial Census, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, is encouraging Hidalgo and Cameron county residents to apply for positions with the census bureau.

In a prepared statement, Gonzalez said eligible applicants in the two counties should apply with the U.S. Census Bureau as a means to directly “represent and improve their communities.”

“It is critical that Cameron and Hidalgo counties report accurate, full numbers during the 2020 Decennial Census,” Gonzalez said in the statement. “It is my hope that every available position, including partnership specialist opportunities, can fulfill this goal. I encourage all eligible individuals to apply to do so.”

Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to hold a hearing Feb. 19 for oral arguments related to a lawsuit filed in April by nearly 20 state attorneys general challenging the bureau’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The hearing is related to whether U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross can be deposed in connection with the plaintiff’s case against the bureau and the Commerce Department.

In early December 2017, the Department of Justice requested the bureau include a citizenship question in the questionnaire, according to a letter dated Dec. 12, 2017.

“This data is critical to the department’s enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and its important protections against racial discrimination in voting,” the letter states.

Ross has argued that the inclusion of the question is imperative to making sure the Voting Rights Act is being enforced. The U.S. Census Bureau has conducted the census every decade since 1790. The last time the census asked a question related to citizenship was in 1950, according to the government agency’s website.

In that form, the question asked where the respondent was born in the U.S., and if not, “Is he naturalized?”

In the 1960 census form, it asks the respondent only about birthplace, and not citizenship, according to the bureau’s website.

In the 2000 census “long form,” it asks “Is this person a CITIZEN of the United States?”

Those who oppose the citizenship question argue that it would discourage non-citizens and people who belong to large immigrant communities in several states from participating in the census — threatening the accuracy of the count.

The inaccurate count could also result in the loss of not only millions in federal funds for the aforementioned communities, but also funding for federal highways, early childhood education and children’s health insurance, to name a few, but also without an accurate count, state representation could be disproportionate because the census count determines the allocation of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives — non-citizens are included in that count.

Locally, efforts are underway to educate residents of the importance of participating in the count.

Earlier this year, officials with the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, or NALEO, and members with the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, a local network of advocacy groups, met with officials with the U.S. Census Bureau on how to best achieve a complete count for the 2020 Census.

During a meeting in February, RGVN members and others made it clear to bureau officials how detrimental adding a citizenship question would be to achieving that goal.

At that meeting, NALEO executive director Arturo Vargas said getting a full count in the Valley is already a difficult task because of the significant amount of undocumented people who reside here, but it’s made even more burdensome in the current “anti-Latino, and anti-immigrant environment.”

Vargas said it would be unconstitutional for the bureau to add the citizenship question.

“It’s in the constitution that every person be counted, and anything this Congress would do to scare people away from being counted would undermine their own constitutional responsibility,” Vargas added. “So we are the ones here to call upon Congress: Do your job; make sure you count everybody; you don’t need to count people and ask them for their citizenship. It’s not a requirement in order for the purposes of the census.”

Also during that meeting, Juanita Valdez-Cox, executive director of La Union del Pueblo Entero, the local immigrant advocacy group also known as LUPE, said convincing a vulnerable population to answer citizenship-related questions would severely hamper efforts to get a complete count.

“I can’t imagine folks would be comfortable in answering that, because they have all of this history of what the government has done to them, and so it’s going to be really difficult,” Valdez-Cox said. “But I think it goes back to trust, and where is the trust? Certainly not in the government. The trust is in the different organizations, the different non-profits that work in the communities who have been here for so many years.”

Those interested in applying for a census position may visit the official U.S. Census Bureau website, .