Haaland Questions Lead Expert to Express Concerns About Census Bureau Operational Decisions to Reach Indian Country During the 2020 Census

January 9, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – At a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing today, Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01) asked questions that led experts to raise concerns about the Census Bureau’s operational decisions to reach Indian Country during the 2020 Census. During the hearing, experts explained that undercounting any community would result in more crowded classrooms, disparities in health care services, less funding for roads and infrastructure, and discrepancies in affordable housing investments in all communities. 


“After today’s hearing, it’s becoming more clear that a failure to count Indian Country in the 2020 Census is a failure for the federal government to live up to its trust responsibility to Native Nations. I’ll be working to ensure Native Americans in both rural and urban areas know this critical fact, as I work to ensure all communities in New Mexico are counted,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland.


According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in the 2010 census American Indians and Alaska Natives living on reservations were undercounted by 4.9 percent and the lack of accurate data on Native Americans impedes federal, state, local, and tribal governments from monitoring conditions and making informed policy and spending decisions.


During the hearing, Haaland asked about how the need to count Indian Country could be met, specifically highlighting language barriers and counting Urban Indian populations.


Chief Executive Officer for the National Congress of American Indians Kevin Allis raised concerns about operational decisions at the U.S. Census Bureau, “Although they [the Census Bureau] have identified the barriers, it’s questionable whether they understand the ways to address those barriers and count Indian Country…If we’re not properly counted our lifeblood is cut right off.”


>>>WATCH: Haaland Questions Lead to Concerns About Census Bureau Operations Decisions in Reaching Indian Country During the 2020 Census


The Census is hiring local community members to help count their neighborhoods and areas, but Census officials report that New Mexico is behind on hiring goals. Any resident can apply online here.



The Constitution requires that the Census count every person in the United States. The results of the 2020 Census will determine the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives and the allocation of approximately $1.5 trillion in federal funding. Some populations, including immigrants, communities of color, children, and people experiencing homelessness, have traditionally been more difficult to count, leading to an undercount on previous censuses.


The 2020 Census is imminent, with counting set to begin in Alaska on January 21, 2020, and New Mexico families will begin receiving their Census invitation on March 12, 2020 with the rest of the country. The Census Bureau must be fully prepared to count all communities to ensure the Census results are accurate, fair, and complete.


New Mexico is one of the most difficult states to count with a high saturation of hard to count populations including: rural areas, immigrant populations, low income, and Native American communities. Specifically in New Mexico’s First Congressional District, homeless populations will require a more intensive outreach strategy for counting. Congresswoman Deb Haaland is very concerned that minority and immigrant communities, as well as rural communities with limited Internet access, are at serious risk of being undercounted in the 2020 Census, jeopardizing their accurate representation in Congress and access to federal funds.


One major cause for concern is that the Census Bureau has fallen behind its targets for hiring census workers to reach hard-to-count communities and for hiring partnership specialists who serve as critical liaisons with these communities. 


The Census Bureau must work closely with local communities to ensure an accurate count, including by addressing fears caused by the Trump Administration’s immigration policies and the failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.