Local leaders praised a federal judge’s ruling Thursday that requires the Census Bureau to continue collecting data until Oct. 31, but noted the court battle is likely not over.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in the Northern District of California ruled against the Department of Justice’s effort to end the Census a month earlier than expected.
In April, the Census Bureau announced it was extending its response deadline to Oct. 31 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in August, it announced an adjusted plan that moved the deadline a month earlier to Sept. 30.
The change prompted an outcry by local leaders who argued it would negatively impact hard-to-reach areas in the Rio Grande Valley.
On Friday, however, they were cautiously optimistic because the federal government is expected to appeal the decision.
“Historically undercounted communities like those in South Texas need as much time and resources as they can to be counted,” U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, said in a news release Friday. “In a pandemic, we need even more.”
U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, said the decision not only gives households the extra time they need to respond, but also gives “Census enumerators the opportunity to ensure that communities of color, rural communities, and individuals experiencing homelessness are rightfully counted.”
Vela pointed to his own district’s low response rate this year when compared to 2010.
“The current 2020 Census response rate for my congressional district, TX34, is less than 50%, which is significantly less than the 58.7% response rate of 2010,” he said. “Hard-to-count communities, including those in my district, will greatly benefit from the more complete and accurate count this court ruling will ensure now occurs.”
McAllen Mayor Jim Darling also applauded the decision, noting in a news release that the count “was and remains affected by the pandemic.”
“Judge Lucy Koh’s order gives us hope that we will have more time to count everyone in our community,” he said, noting self-reporting data demonstrates residents are still completing the questionnaire. “Clearly this demonstrates that more time is needed to accomplish full and complete counts.”
The congressmen, including U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, will host a virtual discussion Wednesday about the importance of participating and the effects of an undercount. They have invited county judges and mayors from across the region to participate in the Zoom discussion, which will be moderated by Futuro RGV and broadcast via Facebook Live.
“We believe that 31 days now should NOT affect us for the next 10 years,” Darling said.