As the President of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, Dr. Juan Andrade, Jr. recognizes the many challenges that the Latino community faces.
Out of the three major demographic groups in the United States, Whites, Blacks, and Latinos, Latinos are the least educated, least likely to own their own homes, have the lowest annual income, and have less access to healthcare, Andrade’s told the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s Latino Endowment Fund last week.
All of these factors make Latinos less likely to vote or register to vote, Andrade said.
Also, among these problems, says Andrade, is the fact that Latinos represent 15 percent of the population of the United States but only one percent of elected officials. As the president of an organization that trains present and future leaders, as well as registers new voters, this is a very troubling statistic for him to hear.
On the other hand, Andrade was happy to report that, “Latino voter turnout in the last election cycle increased by 2 million over the last presidential election of 2004.”
So though the demographic is not proportionately represented in government, the people are still showing signs of increased civic engagement.
In order to continue in this direction, Andrade points to the 2010 census as an immensely important subject about which to educate the Latino community.
An accurate census, he says, will enable the Latino community to redefine the political landscape into one that will better represent their community and promote their needs.
“The census is the sole basis for the allocation of political power in this country and if we blow the census we blow the power. There is no need to have another discussion about the power of civic engagement if we blow the census” Andrade said.
However, political power is not the only thing at stake, getting appropriate government funding is at stake as well, he said.
To drive the point home, he stated that during the last census, which took place ten years ago, 1 million Latinos were missed. According to an equation that the government uses to allocate money, $1,000 per uncounted person was lost, or $1 billion in funds for the Latino community, x Andrade said.
Moraima Gutiérrez, station manager for the local Telemundo, could not have agreed more. She feels that it is important to help Latinos understand that an accurate census will help allocate government funds where they are needed.
“They don’t realize what the after effect of when the census is actually counted and how our community is going to benefit from it,” she said.
Galo Rodriguez, a Colombian and husband of Gutiérrez also agrees.
When money has to be “allocated for education, health, new schools, it’s going to be based on district and the population and if we are not counted, money cannot be allocated for that,” he said.
Rodriguez continued by explaining how if people are not counted in the census then schools will be too small and other infrastructure will not be able to accommodate the population.
As a part of an effort to make sure these people do not go uncounted, Gutiérrez said that at her station they have been working to better educate their viewers.
“One of the things that we’re doing on a very, very grassroots level is starting to go out there and do infomercials out on the street in terms of ‘do you know what the census is?’”
She said that they have found that many immigrants either don’t know what the census is or they are scared of it. These responses only support the need for getting the right information out there.
“It’s not tied to your residency, it’s just tied to the number. How many people live in the house? That’s all we need to know,” she said.