The ten year census is upon us. With it come employment opportunities, always a plus. Also comes the decennial deluge of questions and misinformation.
The Census has Constitutional roots in Article 1, Sec. 2. Crafted in a time with slavery, and exempting "untaxed Indians", the Constitutional language is hardly an exact guide. Its original purpose was to apportion the members of the House of Representatives in Congress according to reasonably accurate population the members represented.
The debate over what this Constitutional "enumeration" ought to contain goes back to the beginning. The Census was Statute 2 of the very first Congress in 1790. This gives us a clue it is of great importance. Even then, the questions to be asked were debated. Livermore of New Hampshire complained that questions as to "profession" would be hard on his constituents, as many held more than one, changing seasonally. Sedgewick, of the more industrial Connecticut, wanted the questions to "extend further" and give a better picture of the economy.
I actually worked evenings on the 1980 Census in North Carolina, so though a bit dated, I have seen both sides. I hear the complaints of the right wing as to intrusive none-of-your-business questions. I understand the fear of residents whose legal status may be questionable. I strongly advise both: Fill out the form!
As to the first question, if you get the "long form" it will have questions about bathrooms, vehicles, all sorts of nonsense that you might consider none of the government's concern. The cover letter will tell you it must be completed under penalties of 13 USC 221. PLEASE go ahead and respond to the first ten or so questions (I have not seen the current questionaire) and if you choose, leave the nosy questions blank. It may well be a violation, but I have been unable to find any case where failure to complete everything resulted in criminal or even civil action. The Census Bureau itself describes the penalty section as "psychological encouragement".
On the second, one part of the Federal Government I trust is Census in this respect. They want numbers. The information, the names and addresses will be bundled into district info, but NOTHING you send Census will be shared with Homeland Security, ICE, INS, La Migra, whatever you want to call it.
It is very important that everyone gets counted. This Census result will determine each state's number of Congressmen, for instance, Texas will gain 2-3; California will lose at least that many. Also, the Census numbers will be used in determining grants and federal aid for all sorts of programs, everything from housing to education to health care, to public safety, to libraries, ad infinitum.
We know from reasonable "eyeball surveys" that San Angelo was under-counted in 2000. We lost tens of millions of dollars over a decade due to that undercount. We will not get another chance for ten years, we must make the best of this one. We want to count EVERYONE! You live under a bridge; I want you counted. You are "undocumented?"; on this I don't care, if you live here, I want you counted. Folks, on this states and even intrastate districts go to court and fight over which body gets to count prisoners, one group claiming they count where sentenced, another that they count where they serve the sentence!
Census has been a nuisance of some degree for at least as long as one forced the baby Jesus to be born in a manger in Bethlehem. Ours is considerably less troublesome than that of Mary and Joseph. Please follow their biblical example and respond to this Census. It is good for our city, and long run, good for you.