Governor Bush: Hispanic 2000 Census
Gilbert F. Casellas
San Diego Union Tribune
November 1, 1999

He says, in Spanish, "My heart is Hispanic." He calls himself "Mexico's best friend across the Border." It's no mystery why. George W. Bush is running for President in a country whose 31 million Hispanics make up the fastest growing electoral force.

Certainly what Governor Bush has been able to accomplish in Texas, getting almost half the Hispanic vote as a Republican, is notable. Now, he hopes to do the same thing nationally. But since announcing his candidacy, Governor Bush has been strangely silent on an issue of immense importance to the Hispanic community: the 2000 Census.

There is no doubt the last Census was unfair and inaccurate. It missed more than 8 million people, most of them poor and children. It counted 4 million people twice, mostly those with two homes. The 1990 Census also missed five percent of the nationās Hispanics -- about 1.5 million people. In California alone, 395,000 Hispanics went uncounted, and the total statewide undercount of 835,000 was the highest in the nation.

Itās no mystery why this happened. Many people have trouble with English, move frequently or simply donāt trust government questionnaires or government Census takers knocking on the door. The reality is, in a nation of 270 million people, itās impossible to find and count everyone ö but fortunately the Census Bureau is required by law to account for everyone.

Why does this matter? Because an accurate Census helps people in ways vital to their daily lives. We use Census data to decide fair political representation at all levels. We use the decennial Census results to enforce provisions of the Civil and Voting Rights Acts, and to allocate government funds for Head Start, the Community and Migrant Health Centers Program, the Adult Education Act, the Bilingual Education Program, and dozens of other public and private initiatives.

Each year, the Federal government distributes more than $180 billion to state and local governments based strictly on Census data. To be left out of the Census is to be left out when these funds are allocated. That hurts Hispanics, and many other segments of our diverse society.

Governor Bush should know this well. The 1990 undercount was bad for Texas, where 25 percent of the population is Hispanic. According to the General Accounting Office, the Texas undercount cost the state a minimum of $934 million in funding for 15 Federal grant programs. Where did this money go? To states with a lower undercount.

Ironically, it was Governor Bush's father who recognized the 1990 Census debacle for what it was, and as President in 1991 he asked the experts at the National Academy of Sciences for solutions. Their recommendation was that the nonpartisan Census Bureau should enhance the traditional door-to-door head count by using modern statistical methods to measure and correct the inevitable undercount. Every other reputable group that studied the issue agreed -- except one.

Republicans in Congress.

For partisan reasons, they have vigorously opposed any use of statistical methods to correct the disproportionate undercount of minorities and children. They fear that an accurate Census would produce more Democratic districts in the House of Representatives. I donāt know if theyāre right or wrong, but I do know that every person in this country ö regardless of ethnicity or political persuasion ö deserves to be counted. Thatās the American way.

The ongoing debate in Washington over how to conduct next yearās Census, coupled with Governor Bushās emergence as the Republican Presidential frontrunner, raises questions for the Hispanic community. Where does a Republican Presidential candidate who openly seeks the Hispanic vote stand on the Census issue? Does Governor Bush agree with the Congressional wing of his party that would purposely undercount Hispanics and other minorities?

Is that what "compassionate conservatism" mean?

Take a stand, Mr. Bush, and let us know if you support a fair and accurate Census for Hispanics and all Americans, or whether your amigos Republicanos on Capitol Hill know something we donāt.


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