The noisy debate over how to fix America’s immigration system is mainly about the large and rapidly growing Hispanic minority. Behind this hums a quieter debate over how they should be counted. Every ten years the American government conducts a census of its citizens. Hispanics present a particular challenge.
According to guidelines laid down by the federal Office of Management and Budget in 1977, “Hispanic” is an ethnicity, not a race. Someone of Hispanic origin may belong to any of the five officially recognised races: white, black, Asian, American Indian or Pacific Islander (or any combination of these). The census form reflects this distinction.