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
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
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.