New Mexico Delegation Warns Census Bureau’s Operation Could Result In Undercount, Costing State Hundreds Of Millions In Federal Funding


WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján, Deb Haaland, and Xochitl Torres Small are raising concerns in a letter to U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham about the Census Bureau’s ongoing operational strategy and engagement with the state of New Mexico.

The delegation criticized the Census Bureau’s sudden reversal of previous plans to extend its operations in light of the coronavirus pandemic. This reversal, which ends census data collection Sept. 30, 2020—one month earlier than the previous deadline of Oct. 31—threatens a full, fair, and accurate 2020 Census and jeopardizes critical federal funding for New Mexico. The delegation further expressed concern over the Census Bureau’s lack of informed communication to the state.

“We write with serious concerns related to the methodologies and field operations of the 2020 Census in New Mexico. While we appreciate the regional update provided by the Census Bureau (the Bureau) for the New Mexico congressional delegation on August 20, 2020, we have great doubts about the success of the ongoing operation and urge greater engagement with the state and federal delegation,” wrote the lawmakers in a letter to Dillingham.

The delegation is concerned that the Bureau’s last-minute effort to accelerate census operations and end data collection, amid the ongoing pandemic, could affect enumeration efforts in hard-to-count areas of New Mexico and Indian Country.

The lawmakers are highlighting reports that the current timeline has created both workload and technological issues for field enumerators, “With the expedited deadline currently in place, our offices have heard reports from field enumerators about excessive caseloads, inadequate workforce in critical areas, technology issues, a reluctance by households to open their doors to outsiders, and a general fear that the count will be inaccurate if the Bureau continues to follow the current operational plan. For example, enumerators report they only make two visits to each non-responsive household instead of the six contact attempts required by Bureau protocol, and they are being sent to households with city­style addresses that have already Self-Responded online.”

The lawmakers continued, “The Bureau must take immediate action to revise current operations and increase transparency with congressional and state partners. As of September 9, 2020, 18.5 percent of New Mexicans have not been counted, and 17 counties and 13 Tribes in New Mexico have Self-Response rates of less than 40 percent. At the current rate, we greatly doubt the Bureau’s ability to fulfil its constitutional responsibility to deliver an accurate count by the statutory deadline.”

The delegation also requested specific information on how the Census Bureau plans to complete the count in New Mexico at its current staffing level, how it will support a complete count in hard-to-count communities, and if the Bureau has a plan to count the thousands of transient workers and college students that spend a majority of their time in New Mexico, but temporarily left the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The full letter can be found HERE.