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The once-in-a-decade census will take place next year, and the director of the Census says his legions are ready to fan out across the country.
Meanwhile, Latino groups who feel they've been undercounted in the past are also mobilizing; mobilizing to makes sure they're not left behind.
NPR's Brian Naylor has our story.
BRIAN NAYLOR: Robert Groves is a self-professed numbers geek. Before becoming Census director last July, he was director of the University of Michigan Survey Research Center and a research professor at the University of Maryland.
He's written seven books about statistical counts, including that page turner "Nonresponse in Household Interview Surveys." Grove says he feels confident about the upcoming 2010 census and that non-response will be a non-issue.
Mr. ROBERT GROVES (Director, U.S. Census Bureau): I had many more concerns in September than I do now. Things are coming together. It's a vast enterprise. It will not be completely smoothly run because you can't do it. But I'm increasingly optimistic we're on our way to a successful census.
NAYLOR: The 2010 census will be rolled out much like a new product. There will be a multimedia ad campaign starting in mid-January. Census forms will be mailed out in March. People will be asked to return their forms by April 1.
In May, Census enumerators will begin fanning out to count people who didn't mail in their forms. By the end of the year, the Census delivers its count to the president.
Groves says the final result will likely confirm much of what we already know.
Mr. GROVES: I think the important thing to anticipate out of the 2010 census is a revalidation of how diverse this country is and how the diversity spreads to all parts geographically of the country.
NAYLOR: The census is a bit of a political minefield, not surprising, given what's at stake. Groves says $478 billion is allocated based on census data, as is how many members of Congress each state gets.
Already, there's been a flap over whether people here illegally should be counted. Groves says, yes, that the Constitution requires a count of all inhabitants.
Minority groups who say they've been undercounted in the past have been speaking out and organizing to ensure they do get counted this time.
Laura Barrera is with the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials or NALEAO. It's been at the forefront of census organizing in the Latino community, some of whom she says are hard to count.
Ms. LAURA BARRERA (Director of Civic Engagement for the Census, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials): A large percentage of our community is concerned with participating because they don't know if their information will be kept confidential. There are concerns about whether the information will be shared with the Department of Homeland Security, local police agencies, the IRS.
NAYLOR: Census officials have been working to assure the Latino community that the information the census collects is not given to other government agencies. And while conservatives in Congress lost an effort to prevent the Census from counting illegal immigrants, one evangelical leader is urging those who are undocumented not to participate for a different reason.
The Reverend Miguel Rivera says illegal immigrants should boycott the Census until Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform granting U.S. citizenship to those here illegally.
Reverend MIGUEL RIVERA (Chairman, National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders): We will stop the boycott once comprehensive immigration reform is signed in law. If there is no comprehensive immigration reform into law, then forget it.
NAYLOR: Rivera's call for a boycott is irresponsible, says NALEAO's Barrera.
Ms. BARRERA: We're being very strategic in working with religious denominations. We're working with evangelicals, Christians, Catholics, to create a solid, faith-based initiative to move the community to build trust and to participate.
NAYLOR: In fact, in some evangelical churches, posters have been displayed during the Christmas season with the message that Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to take part in a census with the tagline: That's how Jesus was born.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.
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