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Census Organizers Strategize To Reach Hard-To-Count Communities

Hannah Colton / KUNM
Anni Lemming of the NM Asian Family Center speaks at a Bernalillo County Complete County Committee meeting on Jan. 14, 2020.

The 2020 Census is coming up this spring. The once-every-decade survey determines how much federal funding New Mexico gets for things like food and housing assistance, and the state stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars for even a slight undercount. Now, organizers across Bernalillo County are strategizing to get as many residents as possible to fill out that form.

Many communities in New Mexico got undercounted in 2010. Census workers say that could be because they live rurally, don’t speak English, because they don’t trust the federal government or just didn’t want to do another survey.  

Cathryn McGill of the New Mexico Black Leadership Council spoke at a meeting Tuesday of people working to turn out the 2020 count in Bernalillo County.

“There has been a lot of exclusion of blacks in the political, social and cultural landscape," McGill said, citing, for one, a 1787 constitutional amendment that determined that enslaved black people would be counted as three-fifths of a person. "We suffer from invisibility and disenfranchisement.”

Those historical problems are exacerbated by the tri-cultural myth of New Mexico, McGill said. And since the tens of thousands of black people in the county aren’t concentrated in particular neighborhoods, her team can't rely on door-knocking to get the word out. So they're reaching out through community connections like "barbershops and beauty salons, churches including African immigrant [and] refugee populations, social networking groups," McGill said.

This year will be the first time you can fill out the Census online. 

Bernalillo County will soon take applications for another round of funding that groups can use to do outreach.

Groups that have already recieved funding for Census 2020 efforts gave updates at Tuesday's meeting, including: New Mexico Asian Family Center, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, the ABC Community School Partnership, Historic Bridge MainStreet South Valley, America Prays, the Albuquerque Indian Center and the Transgender Resource Center of NM. 


Support for KUNM’s Public Health New Mexico project comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and from KUNM listeners like you.

Hannah served as news director at KUNM and reported on education, Albuquerque politics, and anything public health-related. She died in November 2020.
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