by Peter O'Dowd
Arizona typically lags the rest of the country when it comes to response rates for the U.S. Census, and there's concern it will fall even further behind. The state's new immigration law has ignited fear among illegal immigrants
a group that's already reluctant to fill out government forms. 2010 Census workers had doubled their efforts to reach Latino residents long before Arizonas legislature passed the immigration bill in April that gives police more authority to make immigration arrests.
Mary Dahl, a county official in a heavily Hispanic part of Southern Arizona, notes the timing was unfortunate for Census efforts. More than $400 billion from the federal government are on the line, and the Census is charged with accounting for everyone, regardless of legal status.
Census Spokesman Leo Cardenas says he was concerned that Arizona's law would send the Latino community into hiding -- a fear which has not played out so far. "When we go door-to-door, the cooperation continues to be enthusiastic and we continue to cross our fingers."
Cardenas also says Census takers are finding an unusually high number of vacant properties in Hispanic communities. "Clearly in response to the legislation, people are moving to where they can find jobs."
At 67 percent participation, Arizona is already on par with the 2000 count.