Local Hispanic community discusses 2020 Census

Published 5:58 pm Friday, April 6, 2018

Joe Tant, with the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce Hispanic Business Council, said the Hispanic community in Port Arthur is “very fearful.”

That’s because the U.S. Census for 2020 will ask respondents if they are a U.S. citizen or not. Tant said the community is afraid the federal government will use the information to deport them. He made the announcement at the monthly meeting of the HBC on Thursday afternoon.

However, Tant and Fernando Ramirez, community activist, want the question answered. He said they spoke with Rebecca Briscoe, partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau, who assured them that the information would not be shared with agencies like U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement; law enforcement agencies, like the FBI or police; or used to determine their eligibility for government benefits. The results from any Census or survey are reported in statistical format only.

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Tant added that the Chamber of Commerce and Lamar State College Port Arthur are committed to getting residents counted and thus helping the community.

Ramirez said the Census began in 1790. The U.S. Constitution was written in 1787. The U.S. Department of Justice decided to ask the citizenship question, but the Justice Department does not run the Census; Congress will make the final decision about the question in November 2018.

“The Census has been part of American history since our Constitution,” he said. “They tried the citizenship question before and it hasn’t succeeded. This affects not only the Hispanic community, but also every other country of the world of undocumented immigrants here. It’s not just Texas; it’ll affect California, New York, and Florida.”

Ramirez urged attendees to call their local representatives to vote against this “for the American tradition.”

“The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Be vocal and say no,” he said. “We will lose representation if we have a low Census count. If the population of Port Arthur falls under 50,000, we lose federal funds. If the Census is done correctly we (Texas) gain two more seats in the House (of Representatives). Republicans and Democrats are saying no to this.”

Bruce Reyes, chairman of the HBC, asked what would happen if respondents checked neither yea or nay for the citizenship question. Ramirez said he would assume it would be incomplete, but he wasn’t sure.

Additionally, some states are discussing suing the DOJ. Community committees, such as some members with the HBC, are being formed for hard-to-reach groups.