FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – In California, Hispanics became the largest racial or ethnic group, 2020 census data showed.
The population of Hispanics grew from 37.6% in 2010 to 39.4% in 2020 in the state. The white population dropped from 40.1% to 34.7%.
In Fresno County, the census showed its total population is at more than 1,008,000 people, growing by 8.4% from 2010 to 2020. And 53.6% of the county’s population is Hispanic or Latino.
But the 2020 Census didn’t come without its challenges, especially here in the Central Valley.
Jesus Martinez is the executive director of the Central Valley Immigration Integration Collaborative, or CVIIC. He said he and the organization worked with state agencies and the U.S. Census Bureau to promote participation in the Central Valley.
He believes the challenges they faced led to an undercount.
For one, Martinez said there are many housing units that are what they call “unconventional.”
“Where people rent spaces in their homes, rooms or even garages, or in some cases, spaces for trailers that are not formally included in the census database,” Martinez said.
And when former President Donald Trump pushed for a citizenship question on the census, Martinez said that created much fear among the immigrant community.
“Fortunately ultimately the question was not included. What was significant about the struggle is that it really poisoned the public discourse, particularly among immigrant families about participating in the census,” Martinez said. “It didn’t just impact immigrants themselves who may have been fearful of what that question meant. It impacted documented immigrants, it impacted naturalized citizens, and it also impacted U.S. born children of immigrants who are also fearful of what that question actually meant, was intended to do.”
And another prominent challenge was COVID-19.
Martinez said the pandemic happened when many organizations were about to launch their outreach campaigns. And a lot of the outreach didn’t happen until toward the end of the census.
“We know that as a result of that, we were not able to reach every single person that we would have wanted to,” Martinez said.