Census fights lagging response rates in far West Texas expanse

Texas

Complete Count Committees round up community partners to boost participation

The Census Bureau is leaving questionnaires in homes where people haven’t responded online or by telephone. (photo courtesy City of Presidio, Texas)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The Census Bureau is turning to community partners to combat lagging response rates in Far West Texas enclaves.

On Tuesday at noon, the mayor and county judge of Presidio will take to the airwaves of KRPB 88.1 FM to explain how an incomplete count could cost the community federal funds for schools, roads and health care.

On Friday, census workers plan to set up tables at the Mexican Consulate in Presidio to help Spanish-speaking and immigrant families fill out questionnaires for the decennial count. The sit-in is from 9 a.m. to noon at 319 W. 21 De Marzo Street. Residents are reminded to wear facemasks.

Texas census response rate by county. (U.S. Census Bureau)

As of Monday, Presidio and surrounding counties had some of the lowest response rates in the country. The national response rate is 61.9%, while 56.7% of all Texans have already responded. But Presidio stood at 19.7% while adjoining Jeff Davis had a 23.4% response rate and Brewster County reported 30.9% participation.

The three counties can be described as large and rural, with vast stretches of empty expanse. One exception is the city of Presidio, Texas, which shares a border with Ojinaga, Mexico.

“We’ve been very careful to send the information to the right places, in the right language,” said census partnership specialist Charlene McBride. “That’s why we decided to do the assistance center at the consulate, so people would feel secure and safe and hear the information from individuals that they trust.”

Consular officials said their mission is to assist Mexicans living abroad and see the census as something beneficial to them. “We are happy to collaborate. Everyone should be counted,” said Francisco Jacobi, the consul adjunct.

He declined to speculate why response rates have been low, but he wondered if some residents lack either information or interest.

“I received my census questionnaire in the mail, responded through the internet and still got a visit” from census workers, Jacobi said. “Everything seems to be working.”

McBride said the census is working with community partners through its Complete Count Committees to find people and disseminate information. Many residents, she said, are only known through a postal box address.

Partners include area school districts, municipal and county governments, public libraries and other institutions.

To fill out the census online, visit 2020census.gov or call 1-844-330-2020.

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