DETROIT, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, was joined by Robert Santos, the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, for two roundtable meetings in Detroit and Dearborn with minority and other “hard to count” communities. The meetings highlighted the importance of the decennial census to ensuring Michigan communities have access to critical federal resources. Peters, Santos, and roundtable participants also discussed how the Bureau can work to improve future censuses and ensure that every community in Michigan gets counted.
“Factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic and political interference from the previous administration clearly impacted the 2020 Census, and the resulting undercounts could cost Michigan communities access to important federal resources for housing, education, and social services,” said Senator Peters. “Since his confirmation, Director Santos has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving operations at the Census Bureau. I was pleased to host him today so we could hear directly from communities across the Detroit area on how the Bureau can ensure every Michigander is counted fairly and accurately.”
“I thank Senator Peters for convening this group, and for inviting me to be here to hear directly from Michiganders,” said Director Santos. “It’s critical for the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct outreach and listen to local communities, all of whom can benefit from our data. I appreciate the ideas and feedback that were shared during these conversations.”
During the visit, Peters and Santos met organizations representing minority communities in Detroit to discuss the census, including successes and challenges, public engagement and communications, and lessons for the U.S. Census Bureau. The meeting discussed ways that the Bureau can do more robust outreach to “hard to count” communities.
Peters and Santos concluded the visit in Dearborn by meeting with community members, including leaders of the Arab American community, to discuss their feedback on the census – as well as the need for the federal government to add a category for people of Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) descent to the federal data gathering standards, including the census. Peters has long pressed for a distinct classification for MENA communities in federal data collection standards to help accurately count this population, address the specific issues they face and appropriately allocate government resources. After Peters’ efforts, the Administration recently announced it will begin a formal review to revise the federal data standards, and is currently conducting public listening sessions.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which Peters chairs, is responsible for conducting oversight of the U.S. Census Bureau. In July, Peters convened a field hearing in downtown Detroit to discuss the 2020 Census and its impacts on local communities. He convened a hearing last year with senior federal officials to examine how lawmakers can work to improve operations at the Census Bureau. Peters also led the Senate to confirm Director Santos in 2021. Last Congress, Peters worked to secure additional funding for the 2020 Census and fought to protect the integrity of the census from political interference.