The Leadership Conference is working diligently to see that Tom Perez is confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Perez is an eminently qualified public servant and consensus builder who has dedicated his career to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and have the opportunity to succeed. He has served with integrity and distinction at the local, state and national level, compiling an outstanding record of achievement.
The Leadership Conference Education Fund (The Education Fund) worked with national and local partners to carry out training, organizing, and public education efforts in 13 (later expanded to 15) cities where historical and demographic indicators would suggest the potential for damaging undercounts. The Education Fund’s national partners were the Asian American Justice Center, the NAACP, the National Congress of American Indians, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund.
In 2009, The Education Fund identified the need for a special focus on the Gulf Coast region. The lingering effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the still-recovering housing stock, and significant population changes all contributed to making the 2010 count both the most difficult and important in the region’s history.
The stakes were huge: the 2010 census will affect the allocation of federal funds to the Gulf Coast region and representation for these communities in Congress, as well as in their respective state legislatures, for the next 10 years. In Fiscal Year 2008, according to the Brookings Institution, Louisiana received more than $8.9 billion in federal assistance distributed, based in whole or in part, on decennial census statistics.2 The New Orleans metropolitan area alone received $1.8 billion.3 As a spokesman for the New Orleans mayor told The Times-Picayune in July 2009, "a low population count would mean the loss of millions of dollars needed to provide critical services, such as those for children, education and the elderly."4 Mississippi received $5.6 billion, covering community and regional development; health programs; education, training, employment and social services; transportation; income security; and more. And Texas received nearly $31 billion that year in federal program funding allocated on the basis of census data.5
In August 2009, The Education Fund released a report warning of the unique challenges to an accurate count for the Gulf Coast region in the 2010 census, and recommending a set of policy and operational changes to increase the likelihood of a successful count.6 That report was well received by both the Census Bureau and by community-based activists. In a letter responding to the report’s recommendations, Census Director Robert Groves called the report "thoughtful" and wrote, "We look forward to the further implementation of your recommendations as we progress toward the completion of the 2010 census."7 Trupania Bonner, executive director of Moving Forward Gulf Coast, Inc. said, "Getting an accurate census count will require an enormous effort on the part of everyone from the president, the Congress and the Census Bureau to community-based organizations like ours that have developed a special trust with people in hard-to-count groups. This report should help everyone understand what’s at stake and what needs to be done to overcome the obstacles."8
In late 2009 and in 2010, The Education Fund and its national and local partners organized public education campaigns to encourage census participation among hard-to-count populations, with activities and events in 13 key cities culminating in a National Week of Action starting March 22, 2010. Campaign volunteers, local activists, and national partners canvassed low-income neighborhoods and apartment buildings, distributed in-language fliers to ethnic grocery stores, incorporated Census themes at local festivals, and identified and filled language gaps in immigrant communities through bus advertisements, radio PSAs, and ethnic media ad buys.9
In addition, The Education Fund worked with national and regional census officials and with community-based organizations to help identify problems, propose solutions, and overcome communications and logistical challenges.
In response to concerns identified by community-based groups as the 2010 census shifted into high gear, The Education Fund expanded the scope of its education, organizing and oversight in the Gulf Coast region to include the colonias area of South Texas and hard-to-count areas in the Mississippi Delta. In May 2010, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the 200-member civil and human rights coalition, and 30 local, regional, and national civil rights organizations sent a letter to Rep. William Lacy Clay, D. Mo., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, expressing concerns about census operations in historically hard-to-count communities in the Rio Grande Valley, the Mississippi Delta region, and Gulf Coast communities.10Among the concerns highlighted were nonreceipt of census forms, insufficient bilingual or culturally sensitive and indigenous census staff, and inadequate communication by census officials with local service organizations and civic leaders in the Rio Grande Valley.
This post-census report reflects that expanded focus. It reviews operational challenges in the New Orleans area, hard-to-count areas in Mississippi, and the colonias in the Texas Rio Grande Valley. All of these areas were under the jurisdiction of the Dallas Regional Census Office (RCO) and Regional Census Center (RCC). In addition, the report makes recommendations to inform planning and preparations for the 2020 census.
4. Krupa, Michelle, "Nagin advice breaks census rules," New Orleans The Times Picayune, July 11, 2009.
6. "Counting in the Wake of a Catastrophe: Challenges and Recommendations for the 2010 Census in the Gulf Coast Region," The Leadership Conference Education Fund, August 2009.
7. Groves, Robert. Letter to Wade Henderson and Karen Lawson, September 8, 2009.
8. "Civil Rights Coalition Releases Report Highlighting Unique Census 2010 Challenges Four Years After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," Press Release, The Leadership Conference For Civil and Human Rights, August 24, 2009 , accessed at http://www.civilrights.org/press/2009/civil-rights-coalition-1.html.
9. "30 Days Out from 2010 Census: Civil Rights Community Calls for Full Participation," posted on March 1, 2010, accessed at http://www.civilrights.org/archives/2010/03/30-days-census.html.
10. "Civil Rights Groups Urge Congress to Address Low Census Response Rates in Gulf Coast, Mississippi Delta, and Texas Regions," press release, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, May 18, 2010, accessed at http://www.civilrights.org/press/2010/civil-rights-census-gulf.html.