04/04/2011 04:17 pm ET | Updated Jun 04, 2011

From the Community to the Capitol: Census Figures and Leadership in the U.S.

Recently, the Census Bureau confirmed what many of us who work in immigrant communities already know -- that the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population are those who identify as Hispanic or Asian. Along with other immigrant communities -- from the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, Latinos and Asians, these are the Americans who are paying taxes and casting votes -- the backbone of our economy and the pulse of our democracy. Jointly, the country's immigrant and minority communities need to find more effective ways of harnessing our economic power and political potential into policy making that responds to the needs of a diverse America. From decisions on government contracts to education policy, our country's leadership is neither prepared for, nor reflective of, the population it serves.

We're used to hearing about the diversity in leadership in places like San Francisco (where the board of supervisors has more non-whites than whites) and in New York City (where the majority of City Council members are now black, Hispanic or Asian. Although those places still have communities who are unrepresented in political leadership, they are far ahead of the newest places on the map who have growing minority populations -- Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Utah, and Vermont, all places where the percentage of minorities grew by more than 50 percent from 2000 to 2010. Most of these states have almost no representation from minority and immigrant communities.

For minority communities, and those of us concerned with proportionate representation, the next 18 months are a critical moment in our country's history -- Census figures will inform redistricting, a process that is more often political than rational. When the lines that will both literally and figuratively shape and define social, political and economic power for the next ten years are redrawn, my hope is that the process will be borne out of the common aspirations for a truly representative democracy, rather than partisan rancor. Of course, such things take more than just hope to happen. And so, immigrant and minority communities need to organize, articulate our demands, and step up to leadership when those opportunities arise, in order to ensure that leadership from communities to the Capitol looks more like the people it represents.