We are getting news that the population of Santa Ana, historically the central city of Orange County (though it is being overshadowed by neighboring Anaheim and now Irvine), actually shrunk by about four percent since the last census. The mayor of that heavily Hispanic city is not taking that lying down.
Since then, the Orange County Register has offered up numerous vacant homes as a clue to the drop in population. And there may be some there there. The numbers from 2010 are a mere snapshot of what was going on in America on April 1, 2010, and we believe that many undocumented residents (perhaps in the millions) in the United States have gone back to their home countries as the economy fell apart and jobs dried up. That kind of thing could lead to a drop in population in some of the heavily immigrant communities that make up Santa Ana.
Nevertheless, color me skeptical. I worked for the Census Bureau effort this past year, but in Hawaii. However, our parent office was in Los Angeles (which I think is also true of Santa Ana). If the effort in Santa Ana had any of the problems emanating from the Los Angeles office, I would not trust their numbers at all.
There were screw-ups from the initial "walk-through" where they determined which houses were livable units (their sloppy work led to duplicated addresses, addresses not counted, etc.), and then there was an effort to reduce the amount of time needed for NRFU (non-response follow-up) at homes where we were fairly certain somebody lived there.
NRFU does not occur just with undocumented residents, lest anyone think that's what's at work here (Honolulu has far fewer illegals, but it still had loads of non-responders). It occurs when people are working multiple jobs, when multiple adults are living in a home and their mail gets lost more easily or there is a lack of sense of who is in charge to respond to something like that, when there are people there that seem temporary but are meet the definition of a resident, when there are less-than-legal add-ons to a home, etc., etc.
My understanding is that these are common characteristics among immigrant-heavy Santa Ana neighborhoods. Legal or not, there are lots of adults sharing a home due to outlandish rental costs, and I know from direct experience from a part-time job back in high school that the landlords often work under the table to expand the capacity of their units.
But all of the aforementioned problems are challenges that can be overcome for a more accurate count, but not when the parent office is insisting that — despite the shoddy documentation they gave you to do your job — everything must be done within a week. Seriously, it was among the worst manifestations of bali-bali get-it-done-yesterday, speed-over-quality efforts I've ever encountered in an American setting.
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