Census Reaches Out to Hispanics, Illegal Immigrants

State government, nonprofits and Telemundo promote filling out census forms.

ByABC News
February 5, 2010, 4:22 PM

Feb. 16, 2010— -- Pedro trekked across the border from Mexico 10 years ago in search of a better life.

But now, standing outside a Mexican bakery in Phoenix, he shuffles his feet and shifts his eyes from side to side as he speaks. "I'm always looking around, just in case," he said.

Pedro, who would not give his last name, is an illegal immigrant. "America is the place for opportunity," Pedro said. "I knew I had to cross over."

He is single and has been working in construction in Arizona since his arrival. "I've got a clean record," Pedro, who's in his 30s, said. "I just mind my own business."

But despite that clean record, Pedro is one of many illegal immigrants living in Arizona who plan to ignore the upcoming Census 2010, even though he knows it's confidential.

"They call us illegals, and we don't count for the government," Pedro said. "They push us away and they don't want us here. So what [do] they want us [for]? Just [so] we get counted for money?"

The high-stakes head count of Census 2010 is weeks away, and many state officials across the South and Southwest worry about getting an accurate count of the Hispanic population; and, more specifically, the illegal immigrant population.

Census officials say the illegal immigrant population is key in this year's census, not only from a statistical standpoint but also because much-needed federal money hangs in the balance.

"We have many people who are in Arizona who are not here legally but whose children attend our schools and go to hospitals, and those are all affected by the census results and the federal dollars that come back to Arizona," Phoenix Census Bureau manager Al Nieto said.

Arizona, for instance, would lose $400 per year for the next 10 years for every person missed, according to the Census Bureau. (After the 2000 census, auditors found that close to 20,000 Phoenix residents had not been counted in Arizona, adding up to about $80 million in lost funding in the past decade.)