Census information challenge continues in court Undercount: Appeal planned in effort to gain access to government documents. - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Census information challenge continues in court Undercount: Appeal planned in effort to gain access to government documents.

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Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2002 12:00 am

By Emma Perez-Trevio

The Brownsville Herald

The U.S. Department of Commerce plans to appeal U.S. district Judge Hilda

Tagles ruling, providing Cameron and Hidalgo counties and their cities access

to U.S. Census Bureau documents expected to show that minorities were

undercounted, county officials said.

The appeal will be filed with the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New

Orleans, Rolando L. Rios, the counties and cities attorney in their challenge

to 2000 census counts, told Cameron County Commissioners Court Tuesday.

In turn, Commissioners Court also authorized Rios to proceed with

cross-appeals before the appellate court on claims that Brownsvilles U.S.

district Judge Hilda Tagle dismissed earlier this year.

I think we will prevail down the line, Rios also told Commissioners Court.

The census count released in March last year showed Cameron County with a

population of 335,227 and Hidalgo County with 569,463.

Officials said the count was off by 22,000 people in Cameron County and 56,000

in Hidalgo County, translating to losses to the communities combined of up to

$175 million in federal funds over the next decade.

The counties and their 37 cities joined efforts, filing suit in Tagles court

against the U.S. Department of Commerce on May 10, 2001, arguing that the

census counts were inaccurate and asking the court to order an adjustment to

better reflect the populations.

The counties and cities also claimed that the federal agency violated

regulations, abused its discretion and violated the counties and cities

right to equal protection and due process under the Fourteenth and Fifth

amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

In January, Tagle dismissed all but one of the allegations that the counties

and cities made in their pleadings but the counties and cities partially

prevailed, however, in their quest to gain access to census documents showing

adjusted figures.

According to officials, the U.S. Census Bureau already acknowledged a

substantial undercount of minorities but refused to release the statistically

adjusted census data showing this.

Calling the decision not an entire loss, county officials hailed access to the

adjusted data, noting that this provided them an effective tool in continuing

attempts to have an accurate count.

With the federal agencys decision to appeal, the fight is far from over and

Commissioners Court gave Rios the nod to proceed.

The counties and cities have contributed $200,000 for the challenge, of which

approximately $80,000 remains.

Rios said this balance should be sufficient to see the legal fight to its end.

County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa said the amount seemed steep and urged Rios to

contain costs as much as possible.

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