HOUSTON -

It's a topic that's gaining national attention and even fueling controversy in what is inarguably one of the fastest growing segments of our population.

In the United States, "Hispanic" is considered an ethnicity, but that could change.

The U.S. census is considering classifying Hispanics as a race and eliminating the Hispanic origin question.

"I think it would be nice to have it, the Hispanic, because I relate more to that than checking white or checking something else that I really don't consider myself," Houstonian Stephanie Munoz said.

But it may not be embraced by everyone. University of Houston sociology Professor Luis Salinas foresees problems if the changes come to pass. He said he believes Latino advocacy groups in particular, who already feel boxed in by the current race categories, may take issue with it.

"The 45 percent of Hispanics who classify themselves as white are going to say, 'What happened to me?' So it is definitely not going to please everybody," Salinas said.

Whether they are for or against it, it is nonetheless telling. The 51 million Hispanics in the United States now make up more than 16 percent of the population, surpassing African-Americans as the largest minority group in the U.S.

"A lot of people are now getting used to us being here and being a race now. They are getting more comfortable," Houstonian Coytano Chavez said.

This would be the first major adjustment to the census since 2000 when people, for the first time, were allowed to check more than one race.