Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 5, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

The Census and Latinos


  • Lydia Guzman, President of Somos America, and a Census volunteer who provides outreach to the Valley’s Latino community, talks about how Arizona’s new immigration law is impacting U.S. Census efforts in Latino neighborhoods.
Guests:
  • Lydia Guzman - President,Somos America
Category: Immigration   |   Keywords: immigration, sb 1070, U.S. Census,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Today is Cinco de Mayo, and Arizona's Latino community is making itself heard by marching through downtown Phoenix in protest to the state's new immigration law. But when it comes to the U.S. census, Hispanics might be less likely to stand up and be counted. Here to talk about that is Lydia Guzman, president of SOMOS America, she serves as a census volunteer, providing outreach to the valley's Latino community. Thank you for being here. We appreciate it.

Lydia Guzman:
Thank you for having me, Ted.

Ted Simons:
What does that mean, outreach to the community regarding the census?

Lydia Guzman:
It's important to do outreach to the community to let the community know how important being counted in the census is. There's folks that say it's important to us, but when it comes down to educating the community, what it really comes down to -- jobs, and the infrastructure, there's a lot of educating in the community that needs to be done. In both languages.

Ted Simons:
And as far as unique challenges of getting this particular population to agree to the census, what are you seeing?

Lydia Guzman:
There's a lot of fear. And it comes in several ways. The fear because of course we live in a time when you have Sheriff Joe Arpaio doing the sweeps, you have immigration enforcements and the rumors, the rumors that are going around that immigration and maybe the sheriff is going and knocking on doors, and picking people up, and so we're asking folks to open the door to someone who is a government worker. But this is -- we're telling the families, open the door and make yourself counted. These are good folks. We want you to participate in this process.

Ted Simons:
And critics will say that if you're an American citizen, if you're here legally, you should have no fear anyway. How far does that go?

Lydia Guzman:
That doesn't go very far. Here's why. Because here in Arizona, and many states here in the southwest, we have nuclear families, meaning we have families that are mixed with citizens, legal residents, and folks that might be undocumented. And so the census are faced with the challenge, the census process, because maybe there are folks who say I'm only going to include myself because I'm legal, and maybe my husband, but the children aren't here legally, or, you know, vice versa, I'll just make the children be counted.

Ted Simons:
And again, you talked about the importance of the census and the importance of being counted. Critics will say, if folks aren't here legally, we don't want to count them, we shunted be counting them. How do you respond to that?

Lydia Guzman:
Quite the opposite. We want them to be counted, because in order for us to tell the federal government that there's a huge population and there's a need for widening the freeways, for example, the cities and towns rely on the count so that they can request money for the department of transportation by saying, the population has grown this much, and this is what they use in the widening of the I-10 freeway, which -- out in the west valley. So everyone uses the freeway. Whether they're undocumented, whether they're documented, whether they're citizens, and whatever race they are. They're using the freeways. So in order for us to prove that there's a huge need for widening of freeways, we need everybody to be counted.

Ted Simons:
And when you talk to folks, you mentioned that these census takers don't consider them people to fear, but consider them people that will help the situation. How do you get that across? What do you say?

Lydia Guzman:
The folks that are knocking on doors, they've been trained to number one identify themselves. They have a badge, and the badge clearly states they are census takers. They will have a folder, and when we do the outreach, we say these are folks who are not going to be in sheriff's uniforms or any type of uniform. These are folks that most likely live in your neighborhood. So when the census does the hiring for the census takers to knock on doors, they usually ask folks to participate and work in the communities in which they live in. So when someone is opening the door they say, isn't that Johnny's son down the street? Let's open the door to him.

Ted Simons:
Are you getting initial feedback as far as how the census is going so far in the Hispanic community? Are you seeing numbers yet, or getting an education of how it's going?

Lydia Guzman:
Right now the numbers are very preliminary, so we're asking for more participation. We would likely like to see more participation. We're faced with a couple of challenges. One, in the housing crisis. The housing crisis has caused many families in different communities to move into maybe two families in one home, nor one dwelling, like apartments, and so the challenge there becomes when a census taker knocks on a door and says, I need to talk to the Martinez family, but now you have the Martinez family and the Sanchez family living in that apartment and they may not want to participate, because they don't want the landlord to know.

Ted Simons:
Interesting. So there are unique situations out there.

Lydia Guzman:
That's correct.

Ted Simons:
Is it, again, it's just an indication here, but are you sensing that Latinos are leaving Arizona?

Lydia Guzman:
Latinos are leaving Arizona, and the fact that they're leaving is not just the undocumented Latinos. People are saying they're self-deporting or the purpose of the law that just passed, is working. Latinos are leaving in nuclear families, they're also Latinos I know of that are leaving that are citizens because they just don't want to deal with being harassed. They don't want to deal with what this law intends to do. But when I talk to folks and I do outreach, especially with regards to census, one of the main things I want to share with everybody is, SB 1070 is not law yet. So we still have plenty of time to do the census count before this law is ever even enacted.

Ted Simons:
You started working with the census in this outreach program how long ago?

Lydia Guzman:
I participated in the 2000 and then also in the mid term, 2005 with the Maricopa County association of government, and of course I volunteered with this count. It's very important that we continue to stress and to hammer the importance of the census. I see the value in it in our education system, transportation, it creates jobs, all around there's value around, and I want to continue to educate our communities about the importance.

Ted Simons:
And I asked your history because I was curious, compare then to right now with SB 1070, signed into law, not taken -- taken effect yet, but compare and contrast those previous census operations and what you're seeing and hearing now.

Lydia Guzman:
Well, first of all, SB 1070 could not come at a worse time. Especially right in the middle of our census count. The fear is already out there. We've already had recent ice enforcement actions take place here in Arizona, where department of homeland security actually said that this was the biggest in ice history here in Arizona. So that really doesn't -- it's not very comforting to know that these operations are taking place in the middle of what we're trying to accomplish, and that is to make sure that everybody is counted, and we have a reliable count. So the fear and the confusion of all the different operations are taking place and trying to stir in the mix an accurate count. That creates the challenge. This is way different than in 2005 and in 2000.

Ted Simons:
Lydia, thanks for thanks joining us. We appreciate it.

Lydia Guzman:
Thanks for having me.

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