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As Census Deadline Looms, South Texas Organizers Are in a Race Against Time

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Children hold signs through a car window at a census outreach event in Dallas, Texas.Tony Gutierrez/AP

When the coronavirus pandemic struck earlier this year, Martha Sanchez and her team at La Union del Pueblo Entero realized that going door-to-door was no longer an option. So they came up with a new, safer, way to spread the word about the census in the colonias of Hidalgo County, Texas,

“We get in the car and we use a megaphone,” Sanchez says. “Sometimes it’s a recorded message. Other times we just scream into the megaphone and invite people to come and get counted.”

The LUPE team directs residents to parking lots loaned out by local shops and markets, where they’ve set up tables with laptops so people can complete their census forms online. “We tell them, ‘Come to the table, we’re offering you a chance to get counted and you can maybe even win something,” says Sanchez, adding that they often conduct giveaways to entice people to participate.

The colonias—unincorporated rural neighborhoods comprised mostly of Spanish-speaking families of Mexican descent—are “where the poorest and most disenfranchised people live,” Sanchez says. “So we’re committed to service this community.”

LUPE’s campaign typically attracts about 100 participants in a day. That’s an impressive figure, but Sanchez worries that the Trump administration’s efforts to impose a last-minute deadline change will reduce the number of residents who get counted—depriving the already impoverished region of vital federal funds and reducing its representation in Congress.

The US Census Bureau had originally extended the deadline for households to fill out the all-important questionnaire through the end of October, to accommodate operational changes due to the pandemic. But, after a series of Trump administration appointees joined the agency, it announced that the deadline would be pushed up to September 30. A federal court temporarily halted the change and will decide as early........

© Mother Jones

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