There are approximately 56.5 million Latinos in the United States with roughly one in three living in hard-to-count areas. Many communities across the country often referred to as hard to count have historically low participation rates in past censuses and have a likelihood of not responding to the 2020 Census.

Hard-to-count populations include young children, rural residents, people of color, immigrants with and without immigration status, low income families, and the homeless among others. Despite the critical impact of the census to local communities, under counting certain populations is a constant problem associated with the census.

Under counting is particularly common in Latino communities, which presents a problem for towns in southwest Kansas like Garden City and Dodge City, where according to census data, Latinos account for more than 60% of the population. Under counted minorities, such as Middle Easterners, East Africans, Asians and of course Latinos, list language barriers, fear, confidentiality concerns and a distrust of our government as pressing concerns that keep them from participating in the census.

Many Latinos residing in southwest Kansas who are hesitant of participating in the census feel that sharing personal data with anyone from the government means worrying what might happen to their information or themselves.

Considering what is at stake for southwest Kansas, local organizations aggressively are working to ensure an accurate count. Local governments in different communities across the region have come together with local leaders and community organizations to form Complete Count communities. The goal is to create strategies to educate and engage community members and guarantee an accurate census count in 2020.

Complete Count committees are partnering with community organizations and stakeholders already working in the hard-to-count neighborhoods because they are considered trusted voices in the community. In order to address the fears and concerns of hard-to-count populations, these trusted voices will work to diffuse these fears by creating a clear message of confidentiality. While community outreach alone doesn’t take care of all the concerns the Latino communities have toward the census, it is a way to address the barriers.

As part of the efforts to reach the hard-to-count populations in southwest Kansas, Complete Count committees in Garden City, Dodge City and Liberal have partnered with Kansas Appleseed and local libraries to host Count Me In/Yo Cuento. The census workshops will be provided both in English and Spanish. Count Me In/Yo Cuento will address confidentiality concerns, census timelines and the local impact of the 2020 Census in southwest Kansas.

For information about the 2020 Census, the community is welcomed to attend one of the upcoming workshops.

Dodge City: 6 p.m. Feb. 12, Dodge City Public Library

Liberal: 6 p.m. Feb. 13, Liberal Memorial Library

Lakin: 6:30 p.m. English session, 7:15 p.m. Spanish session, Lakin Public Library

Garden City: 6 p.m. Feb. 25, Garden City Public Library

Blanca Soto is the southwest Kansas campaign director for the Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and a member of the Kansas Complete Count Committee.