NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and the New Jersey Latino Pastors and Ministers Coalition, a group representing 375 churches and over 37,000 parishioners across the state, kicked-off a yearlong effort to ensure everyone in the Hispanic community gets counted in the 2020 Census.

The U.S. Constitution requires an accurate count every ten years of all persons living in the United States, regardless of their citizenship status or national origin. Census population data is used, not only to determine representation in Congress, but how much funding each state and community receives for virtually everything, including schools, first responders, roads, mass transit, public health, libraries and affordable housing.

“When it comes to the Census, it’s no exaggeration to say that if you don’t get counted, you literally do not count. Your voice in our democracy will go unheard, because Census data determines how congressional districts are drawn, how many seats there are, and how strong New Jersey’s leverage is in the federal government. Your community will go underfunded, because Census data determines how nearly $675 billion in federal grants, loans, direct payments and other programs are divided up between the states—nearly $23 billion for New Jersey alone,” said Sen. Menendez, the nation’s highest ranked elected Hispanic. “But this year – I’m counting on you, because when we have accurate Census data, we can win more federal dollars. And when we win more federal dollars, we can make a greater difference in our communities."

The Census Bureau identified populations they have designated as “Hard to Count” that historically have low response rates to the decennial Census. These populations include Latinos, African Americans, children, non-native English speakers, and residents born outside the United States. In Newark, 99.62% of the population lives in tracts that are at risk of being undercounted in the 2020 Census.

The Senator cited the Trump Administration’s harmful immigration policies and attempts to insert an unconstitutional citizenship question for instilling fear in the Hispanic community and making it even more challenging to get an accurate Census count.

“I know that some immigrant families may still be hesitant to participate in a government survey,” continued Sen. Menendez. “We cannot afford to have our seat at the table taken away. We cannot afford to have our early childhood education programs underfunded, or our health care dollars be taken away, or affordable housing programs slashed. So we have to reject the politics of fear. We must stand up and say, ‘We will be counted.’”

Sen. Menendez successfully fought efforts by the Trump Administration to slash Census funding and helped pass a budget with $1 billion dollars more than what was requested. He also joined Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) last year to introduce the Every Person Counts Act (S. 201) to prohibit the Secretary of Commerce from including any question regarding one’s citizenship or immigration status on the U.S. Census; a federal judge later blocked the Administration’s attempt to add such a question.

“Data received from the 2020 census will be used to allocate federal funding for all kinds of public services, such as schools, roads, and emergency services,” Sen. Booker said. “It also determines representation in Congress. Unfortunately, rather than a good-faith effort to count all communities accurately, the Trump Administration has tried to alter the census in a crass and cynical attempt to undercount certain communities—especially communities of color—for political gain. It’s absolutely critical that such marginalized populations receive honest and helpful information about the census process so they can meaningfully participate in this key civic survey and be counted accurately. I’m grateful to Senator Menendez and the Coalition for Latino Pastors and Ministers for leading this statewide education initiative.” Booker is the author of federal legislation that would ban the Census Bureau from including citizenship information in the data it’s required to provide to states for legislative redistricting.

Hispanic faith leaders and civic organizations are stepping up to play a critical and more-outsized role in 2020 to encourage greater Census participation.

“As clergy, we are positioned as the most trusted messengers in our communities to promote the sanctity of the census and ‘get out the count,” said Rev. Raul Ruiz, president of the New Jersey Latino Pastors and Ministers Coalition. “Our bilingual campaign, ‘Uno Más Tú Cuentas,’ converts each of our 375 member churches into ‘sanctuary locations’ for the Census 2020 count. As Census Ambassadors, our pastors will integrate ‘Get Out The Count’ messaging into worship to communicate what’s at stake for our community, remind that survey data is not going to be used against them, to not be afraid of Census surveyors at their door, and to count each member of their family, especially infants. We’ll also emphasize that the Census is easy to complete, important and secure.”

The New Jersey Latino Pastors and Ministers Coalition is an independent group of Christian leaders, across all denominations, committed to using its collective strength to effectively empower Latinos and communities that are economically, socially, politically, and spiritually disenfranchised.

Newark Councilmembers Luis Quintana and Anibal Ramos and Hudson County Clerk Junior Maldonado also attended today’s announcement and stressed the need for Latinos to participate in the Census.

Sen. Menendez and clergy encouraged members of the community to apply to be one of the 15,800 Census workers New Jersey is in the process of hiring. The state needs to recruit a pool of more than 50,000 applicants by the end of January.