Newly released census figures show that the Latino population in the United States surged by 43 per cent in the last 10 years, comprising 50 million people. According to New America Media's Nina Martin, this marks the first decade since the 1960s when the number of Latino births exceeded the number of immigrants. But, this increase notwithstanding, it seems that a sizable portion of the Latino population may not have been counted at all.
As Claudio Rowe reports at Equal Voice Newspaper/New America Media, officials in Hidalgo County, Texas, are planning to sue the federal government for failing to count as many as 300,000 Texas residents living along the U.S.-Mexico border. The residents, most of whom live in unincorporated subdivisions called colonias, are predominately U.S.-born Latinos (65 per cent). Though community organizers spent months preparing families to participate in the census, the federal government failed to mail census forms to 95 per cent of colonia residents -- allegedly deeming them "hard to count." The omission could lose the state tens of millions of dollars in social services funding over the next decade.
But that's not all, as Rowe explains:
Aside from money, census undercounts can drastically affect political representation by triggering the redrawing of electoral districts. So across the nation, inaccurate population figures could affect elections for thousands of government offices over the next 10 years -- everything from school board members to state representatives.
Texas redistricting discounts Latino population
In large part because of high Latino population growth, in fact, Texas is set to gain four new congressional districts -- and the battle over their geographic make-up has already begun, despite the likely exclusion of several hundred thousand Texans.
Patrick Brendel of The American Independent notes that, while U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith (R) and Joe Barton (R) feud over whether the new districts should favour a particular political party, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) has filed a redistricting lawsuit against state leaders, alleging that the population numbers being used for the state's 2011 redistricting process "severely undercounts Latinos." MALC's petition adds:
The creation of redistricting plans for Texas election districts using the defective 2010 census data discriminates against Latino voters and is not legally enforceable.
Opponents argue that non-citizens shouldn't be included in the census at all, because redrawing political districts to accommodate undocumented populations dilutes the voting power of actual citizens. How the U.S.-born colonia residents who were excluded from this census fit into that schema, however, remains unclear.
The whole debacle does elucidate one important point, though: Low-income Latinos and undocumented migrants are similarly marginalized by both state and local governments -- regardless of their citizenship status.
Texas welcomes wealthy Mexican immigrants, rejects working class undocumented
At the Texas Observer, Melissa Del Bosque reinforces that point when she notes that, while U.S. immigration policy has grown increasingly hostile towards Mexican immigrants in general, the government has been remarkably accommodating toward wealthy Mexican immigrants. She reports that Texas border cities are doing everything they can to encourage Mexican investment in the state, even brokering deals with the federal government to expedite visas for wealthy investors eager to flee Mexico's security crisis:
"If you are in Mexico City you would call Progreso Bridge and say, this is our credit card number, this is our plane, this is who is on it," Hernan Gonzalez, the Weslaco EDC executive director, told the McAllen Monitor. "They would already be in a registry … and then the officers would come and clear you based upon when you are going to land."
By contrast, only 2 per cent of the 11,000 Mexicans who have sought asylum from cartel violence gained entry into the United States, according to the Texas Observer's Susana Hayward. Del Bosque adds that "Mexicans who invest $500,000 or more in a company that creates at least 10 jobs can obtain U.S. residency in a matter of months," thereby avoiding the growing immigration case backlog in the United States. (As of February 2011, the average waiting period for immigration cases was 467 days -- a 44 per cent increase since 2008.)
It's a stark reminder that the escalating furor over immigration reform is as much about class as it is about race, nationality or culture.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.
Thank you for reading this story…
More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.
rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.
So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.
And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.