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Study: Census Undercount Deprives AZ Latinos of Funding, Political Clout

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Tuesday, May 3, 2022   

A recent report found the 2020 census significantly undercounted Latinos and other racial and ethnic groups, costing Arizona millions of federal dollars over the next decade.

The Brookings Institution study found in 2020, the undercount of Latinos was about 5%, three times larger than the undercount in 2010.

Activists say Latino families with children may lose access to benefits such as Medicaid, SNAP, Children's Health Insurance and the National Lunch Program due to a statistical anomaly.

Joseph Garcia, executive director of the Chicanos Por La Causa Action Fund, said instead of gaining political clout in the 2020 census, Arizona Latinos had to work just to maintain the status quo.

"How is it that we're the fastest growing state, and yet we didn't grow in population? It was bizarre," Garcia remarked. "I mean, everyone's scratching in their head. Everybody thought we were going to get two more congressional districts, certainly one. So we fought hard to preserve the Latino legislative districts that we have now."

Garcia believes with growth in the state's Latino population, a new congressional district would likely have been majority Latino. He pointed out even with just a 3% undercount, Arizona will lose almost $2 billion in federal funds over the next decade.

In response to the undercount, Chicanos Por La Causa announced a $10 million campaign last week to increase Latino voting in Arizona during the midterm elections. Garcia emphasized his group intends to fight back against attempts to keep them away from the polls.

"Some were angry, some were happy because some did not want Arizona to get another congressional district," Garcia observed. "Some did not want more Latinos counted. It became politicized. And the whole idea is that the census is not supposed to be politicized. It's supposed to be a very accurate count."

Garcia added unless Latinos gain and use the political clout they are capable of having, groups who are trying to suppress the vote will succeed.

"It doesn't matter if Latinos are at the Republican table or Democratic table," Garcia contended. "Latino issues will be heard and addressed. We know the numbers are there now that if Latinos vote in the way they should, it will be game changing for the political landscape of Arizona forever."

Disclosure: The Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, and Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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