Officials launch local census efforts

SAN JUAN — Census officials demonstrated their plans to get as many Rio Grande Valley residents to participate in the 2020 Census during a heath and informational fair on Thursday.

The fair was hosted by La Unión del Pueblo Entero on what was the first day of the U.S. Census self-response period in the Rio Grande Valley.

The self-response is the opportunity for residents to complete the census form via paper questionnaire or through one’s phone, as well as a new option which allows residents to participate in the census through an online portal.

Among those in attendance at the fair included Dr. Mary Jane Garza, who is the 2020 census partnership coordinator for 34 counties in Texas.

“Today is a very significant day,” Garza said. “Remember the census occurs every 10 years. March 12 opens the window of response, and we are able to respond by internet, by phone and by the paper questionnaire. So we encourage people now to begin responding to the census because it is a vital, vital instrument that allows us, the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Census, to know exactly how many people are residing in the United States. It’s about counting every single person.”

Approximately 100 people attended the census fair, which provided an opportunity for residents to receive assistance with filling out their census forms from U.S. Census Bureau workers, as well as free health checks.

Garza said that the Census Bureau has placed a significant number of workers in areas where census participation is at a minimum.

“We also have over a thousand partners in this area who have said, ‘We will help. You let us know what we need to do, and we’ll do it,’” Garza said.

Martha Sanchez, LUPE’s community organizing coordinator, said that her organization has been working in the colonias in an effort to get people to fill out the census. She said that her organization has been preparing for March 12 for quite a while.

“What we wanted to say today is that this is the day,” Sanchez said. “We’re starting today to get counted. The time that we’ve been preparing for is now here. It’s time to respond to the questionnaire, especially in the areas of the Rio Grande Valley where we have such low incomes. We have such great necessities. Everywhere that you look, there is a need for federal money. This is an opportunity. We have money right in front of us.”

According to Sanchez, every person who is counted in the census is worth $17,000 to their area. She said that the goal of her organization, which has already visited over 100 colonias, is to have a 5% increase in the number of people filling out census forms compared to the 2010 census.

“This is the chance. Let’s not say no to $17,000. Let’s say yes,” Sanchez said. “Just by counting ourselves, we bring money to the Rio Grande Valley to better our communities. This is the chance. This is a call action.”