Tag Archives: Census Bureau

The Census? It’s Not Over Yet!

On October 13, the US Supreme Court granted an appeal from the Trump administration to halt Census2020 on Oct 31, in a shocking reversal that will end the count sooner than expected. An earlier injunction by a California District court had allowed an extension because of disruptions caused by the pandemic.

The decision left states and census advocates scrambling to meet an impossible December 31 deadline to review, process, tabulate and report census reapportionment and redistricting data.

This means that the Census Bureau has just six weeks – not six months – before delivering apportionment counts to the President.

What Will Happen
What’s likely to happen is that the final enumeration will be inaccurate. Historically hard to count populations -minorities, people of color, and marginalized communities – will be undercounted in the final tabulation.

That, in turn, will impact the distribution of resources – funding for roads, schools, hospitals, food assistance and health services – that vulnerable communities rely on. The consequences for marginalized communities are dire. The pandemic has already restricted their use of safety net resources, but an undercount will threaten their access to those resources for the next decade.

Pushback against the new ruling has been swift.

Justice Sotomayor, dissenting from the grant of stay, wrote that “The harms caused by rushing this year’s census count are irreparable. And respondents will suffer their lasting impact for at least the next 10 years.”

Civil rights advocates say it blatantly disrupts a census count that has been ten years in the making. They denounced the Trump Administration’s countless efforts to sabotage the census for political gain, calling the ruling a dismaying decision that “undermines American livelihoods as well as our democratic system.”

Census advocates echoed this view at a briefing hosted by The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights and Ethnic Media Services on October 20.

“Everyone in America regardless of political affiliation or ethnicity, should be deeply troubled by the President’s attempt to undermine and misrepresent data from the 2020 Census,” said John Yang, President & Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC).

Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League which spearheaded litigation against the Trump directives, called the Supreme Court a ‘willing co-conspirator’ that has “aided, abetted, facilitated” the administration’s effort to politically interfere with the census….and to cheat the American people of their constitutional right to representation.”

The Constitution is clear. It mandates that ‘all persons’ – not all citizens – must be included in the decennial census and in the apportionment count. Advocates at the briefing called Trump’s executive order an attempt to amend the US Constitution.

Impact of the Ruling
The ruling underscores historic attempts to erase undercounted communities from the census and ongoing efforts by the Administration to keep non-citizens off the decennial.

Up next is a Supreme Court hearing of a Trump directive that seeks to exclude non-citizens from the congressional apportionment. Earlier, a ruling by federal judges in New York found the executive order unlawful.

These legal challenges undermine the democratic process on which our country was founded, said panelists. A flawed count will affect apportionment – redistricting legislative districts based on newest population counts and redistributing seats to represent those districts in the House of Representatives. In undercounted areas, marginalized communities risk losing fair representation in government.

What’s at stake is the constitutional intent of the count.

How Census2020 played out
Census officials have planned Census2020 for ten years. When COVID19  hit, they outlined a timeline to ensure they would reach an accurate count during the pandemic.

The Bureau spent over $6.3 billion on a campaign to get the count out.  It bolstered partnerships with community organizations and civil rights groups at national and local levels to encourage participation in the census.

“The Administration’s refusal to let Census Bureau experts determine the best schedule for completing the count and reporting results really created enormous chaos and confusion in the field,” said Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference.

Census2020 is one of the largest decennials, but the run up to its final count has been buffeted by natural disasters and an unrelenting pandemic, making it the most difficult of enumerations.

“We have worked so hard to push our communities to participate in the census and tell them how it will benefit their lives,” said Yang, so rushing to transmit apportionment data to the President by December 31, completely undermines those efforts.

Minority communities will take the fall
Experts agreed that rushing the census will shortchange minority communities.

Historically, self-response rates from communities of color nationwide tend to be lower than non-Hispanic white and US self-response rates. Latinos, tribal areas, Blacks and swathes of Asian residents need more targeted outreach – “more door knocking enumeration” – which requires extra time.

Panelists called a Census Bureau statement that it had topped 99% completion rates ‘a myth’. That rate only refers to households on the address list, but do not indicate if all householders were included or completed the census forms. “Do not be fooled,” warned Morial, “if there was fake news, this is it!”

The perils of an undercount include overcrowding in schools and hospitals, and congestion on roads. It will put communities in a tough spot that will be hard to recover from. Hastily tabulated data will harm the nation, but that risk falls disproportionately on communities of color.

“Make no mistake about it. There has never been an accurate count of Latinos in a decennial,” said Arturo Vargas, CEO of NALEO, referring to historical interference that has denied Latino participation in the census, whether it was asking Latino immigrants to boycott the census, or barring their inclusion in it. “The odds are consistently against a census that fully includes all (almost 60 million) Latinos.”

Morial pointed out that “The Black population count was already in jeopardy from the start,” because African American communities have not even reached the national self-response rate of 68%.

In Indian country, that rate is 25% below the national average, said Kevin Allis, Leader of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), arguing that his community is invisible to the rest of the country. In 2010, Indian country suffered an undercount twice the national average.

Allis also pointed out that the federal government has a treaty and trust responsibility owed to tribal nations (covering infrastructure, health and education and economic development), in exchange for millions of acres that tribal nations ceded to the US for settlement. Chronic underfunding has created disparities in Indian country. A census that falls short, will further decimate the funding and representation promised in those treaties, warned Allis.

It’s not over yet
“It would be a mistake for anyone in the public or the media to think that the Census is over,” said Gupta. What is over is the data collection process from a 150 million housing units. In the next phase, the Bureau will process raw data to produce a count that accurately reflects every US community. Data will determine the distribution of real resources in neighborhoods.

It’s a massive and complex undertaking that needs time, says Census Bureau experts (the Gov. Accountability Office and the Commerce Department’s Inspector General).

Rushing the census will force the Bureau to cut corners and compress vital quality checks that could skew data and create errors, advised Gupta. “The ramifications will last decades.”

The data processing phase is crucial to ‘fill in the blanks’  added Vargas. Checks and remediation are needed to ensure that forms are complete, all household members included, and to fix erroneous and duplicate responses. It requires meaningful consultation with stakeholders to deal with disclosure avoidance systems and make sure nobody is left behind.

Flawed data will lead to flawed decisions that harm everyone, warned Allis.

It takes time to integrate quality indicators that measure and translate census data into accurate apportionment counts. If you erase people from the census, the domino effect at play will see federal programs and fair elections start to fall.

Political interference has reduced a six month process to two, and that will undermine the integrity of the count, so we need to “excise politics from the process,” urged Morial.

The Bottom Line
Without an extension, millions of people will be left out of the count. That includes people in rural and tribal lands, people of color, people with low incomes and people experiencing homelessness.

“In a lot of ways this has always been the Trump administration’s goal, from the failed citizenship question, to Trump’s unconstitutional memo to erase undocumented immigrants from the count. The administration has been trying over and over again to dictate who counts in this country,” stated Gupta.

Congress Must Act to Salvage the Census
There isn’t a clear roadmap ahead if the Census Bureau is forced to produce an inaccurate count.

Advocates at the briefing urged Congress to take immediate steps to reset the course of the census and stave off damage that could last the next ten years. They suggested the public put pressure on congressional delegations to free the census of political and partisan interference going forward.

The Leadership Conference has endorsed  a bipartisan bill to save the census, and asked Congress to push back the reporting deadlines by 120 days each – extending the reapportionment deadline from December 31 to April 1, 2021, and the redistricting deadline from April 1 to July 1, 2021.

“Congress has to set a clear path forward” Gupta added, because it is their constitutional responsibility to protect the integrity and accuracy of census data.

“Look. The decennial census sets a standard for data quality that must be preserved,” said Yang. “It should be something the US Census Bureau achieves without interference.”


Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents

Photocredit: Photopin

Governor Newsom: Get Counted by September 30

Better schools.

Safer roads.

Healthier neighborhoods.

All Californians can help their communities secure these resources and more by participating in the 2020 Census before September 30. It’s as simple as answering nine easy questions online or on the phone.

As we continue to address the double pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism, many of us are thinking about the world we want to live in, and how we can make it better and safer for the next generation. The Census gives us an opportunity to lay the groundwork for securing the funding that communities need to thrive.

An official count of the population, the Census is used by every level of government to decide funding for our children’s schools, childcare programs, and nutrition and health resources.

The answers you give today will affect us every day for the next ten years. Whether or not you take the Census will impact your 6-year-old until they are in high school.

The Census has helped us tell our American story since the first survey was conducted in 1790. It’s a count of everyone living in the United States, regardless of background, immigration status or citizenship. It paints a proud picture of who we are, informs political representation and determines funding for the foundation of our lives.

By taking the Census, you will help secure billions of dollars of funding for your community, tribal nation and state. You will ensure you and your neighbors are represented in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Communities that have more people officially counted have greater representation in the legislature and the Congress, and they have more funding available to assist with the community needs based on this official count.

The Census gives us the chance to say, “we’re here, we matter and we know what our kids and communities deserve.”

We are proud that California is the most diverse state in the world’s most diverse democracy. Every community in our golden state is unique and each deserves to be counted. But not every community has been counted as they should.

Native Americans, immigrants, non-English speakers, diverse communities and children are among those most often missed by the count. An undercount would take away the power of our voices and count us out of the decisions that affect us. And it would put our future and funding at risk, resulting in less money for our hospitals, fire departments and schools. For every person left uncounted, California could lose $1,000 per person each year for the next ten years.

It’s our mission to include every community in the Census count, including ones who have previously been left out due to language and cultural barriers, fear or misinformation. In California, we are taking the Census as seriously as we take our children’s futures. We’ve made historic investments in ensuring every single person living in California – especially those in hard-to-count communities – is counted. That includes working with non-profit organizations and ethnic media partners to ensure we reach every Californian in the language they speak.

You may have already received instructions in the mail on how to fill out the Census form. If you didn’t, you can still fill out the form online at my2020census.gov or by phone at 844-330-2020. Assistance is available on the phone in several languages. If you received a paper form in the mail, you can fill it out and mail it back.

Make sure you count everyone in your household, including children, and do it before September 30.

As you’re filling out the Census, know that it is safe and confidential. The information collected cannot be shared or used against you in any way. Census data cannot be used for law enforcement purposes or shared with landlords. The Census Bureau will never ask for your Social Security Number, financial information or money. And the 2020 Census is prohibited from asking about immigration or citizenship status.

Right now, Census teams are going door-to-door to follow up with people who have not responded. They are following all public health guidelines, trained to wear a mask and ask the Census questions from outside your home. You can tell if the person is an official Census taker by their I.D. badge and Census Bureau-issued phone.

Remember that by answering these nine easy questions and ensuring a complete count, you are creating a brighter future for your community.

As parents, there is nothing we would not do for our children. This year, add “taking the Census before September 30” to that list.

Visit the Census website to learn more: https://californiacensus.org/

Ditas Katague Fights to Get All Communities Counted

When Ditas Katague was growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, in the 1960s, only 150,000 Filipinos lived in the United States.

About five decades later, when she began leading the U.S. Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Race, Ethnicities and Other Populations, the Filipino population in the country had risen to nearly 2 million.

Katague now is heading up her third decennial census, and nearly 4 million Filipinos live in America. Of those, more than 1.6 million call California home.

This rapidly growing ethnic group overall has significantly higher incomes compared to the country’s total foreign and native-born populations, but the Filipino voter turnout is only 46%.   It is in closing gaps like this that Katague found her calling early on in census work.

“It has been my desire to be an agent of change and guide census efforts,” said Katague, now director of the California Complete Count Census 2020 Office. “I am a proud Filipino American.”

Rites of passage to census

Katague’s father worked in the 1960s in Kansas City. When she was 10 years old, her family moved to a new subdivision in Modesto, California, where she had an experience that forever changed her perspective on the decennial count.

The father of her best friend in the neighborhood had a stroke and was taken from their house in an ambulance. But because the hospital was far from where they lived, the stroke damaged him seriously.

That terrible memory has always reminded her that if the federal government had allocated more resources to their neighborhood, there might have been a hospital nearby that could have given her friend’s father immediate care.

“I always wonder, if that ER was even 10 minutes closer, would he have suffered less damage? Would he have been able to walk on his own?” Katague said. “If we are not counted, those facilities or things that we need would be a lot farther away.”

Census participation in California

In an effort to achieve a complete count in California, and despite the difficulties of achieving that during the coronavirus pandemic, Katague continues to encourage communities across the state to participate in the census.

As of June 28, she said, California’s count rate was 68% — more than 9 million households have submitted their census questionnaires by phone, online or mail. The state’s rate is higher than the 61.8% national average.

San Mateo, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Marin, Orange and Ventura counties lead California’s census responses.

“It is a huge achievement, considering what we are facing right now, but we still have a lot further to go,” Katague said.

Those most at-risk of going uncounted in the census include minorities, immigrants, residents in hard-to-reach or remote areas, renters and children ages 5 and under.

“[Census] brings the fair share of our representation back to our communities, and that’s why it is really important,” Katague said. “But most importantly, as Filipino Americans, it shows how we are growing and to have the data [that does] not just lump us [all] in with Asian American and Pacific Islanders.”

Challenges in the Filipino community

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Filipinos who don’t participate in the census are mostly undocumented immigrants and those who are too busy with work, especially those with multiple jobs.

“The census is safe and confidential, but I get the fear,” Katague said. “Many of our hardest-to-count populations … our TNTs (undocumented) within the Filipino community are definitely like, ‘I’m not going to answer that.’ But we need the data to understand the impact that Filipino Americans are having on a lot of different things … especially during this time of COVID-19.”

The deadline to submit the questionnaire to the U.S. Census Bureau has been extended to Oct. 31 because of the pandemic.

Katague acknowledges that many households in the Filipino community are composed of multigenerational families, which poses challenges to count.

“We have those living with lola (grandmother) or lolo (grandfather) and staying with them, or tita (aunt) is staying over, and then they’ll often see an undercount because they won’t report everyone,” Katague said. “Maybe tita’s not supposed to be living there at that time, or maybe they think they’ll get their own forms. But since the housing crisis, we have seen houses that are doubling up.”

Is Filipino Asian or Pacific Islander?

Katague is American, born and bred. She attended American public schools, and established her career mostly in American public service.

By identifying herself as Filipino, her ethnicity offers a thread, a more significant meaning for her commitment that every Filipino living in California and the United States —  young and old, documented and undocumented, biracial and multiracial — gets counted.

Katague talked about how being a Filipino American has shaped her personal and political identity, and she mused aloud about questions her own daughter grapples with.

The teenager is multiethnic — half Filipino, a quarter Italian and a quarter Irish.

According to the Census Bureau, an individual’s response to the race question is based upon self-identification. The Bureau does not tell individuals which boxes to mark or what heritage to write in. Instead, the questionnaire gives the respondent the option to self-identify with more than one race or ethnicity.

“My daughter is also trying to find her identity,” Katague said. “She’d say, ‘Mom, we are the Latinos of Asia.’ But the census gives her the opportunity to choose her identity — the way anybody wants to choose it. Now, she’d say, ‘Mom, I’d only fill out Filipino,’ because that’s what I identify with and that’s what resonates with her.”

San Mateo – California’s #1 Census Success Story

San Mateo County has achieved the highest census self-response rate in California by working with local organizations that know their communities intimately and by targeting messages to them.

Those efforts by trusted, countywide, “on-the-ground” messengers were funded by more than $1.3 million from state and county monies, officials said during a June 30 conference call hosted by Ethnic Media Services.

San Mateo County has reached a 72.8% self-response in the 2020 census, higher than the state’s 62.9% average and the nation´s 61.8%. 

This means that almost three out of four county residents already have filled out the population questionnaire, well ahead of the start of door-to-door visits by census enumerators, which are slated to start in mid-July for some U.S. locations and in August for the rest of the nation. 

San Mateo County, located in the Bay Area on the San Francisco Peninsula between the cities of San Francisco and Palo Alto, is composed of dissimilar communities, and the high self-response number varies greatly. Some cities in the county, like Pescadero and East Palo Alto, are way behind in the count, according to local groups. 

Megan Gosh, census management analyst of the San Mateo County Office of Community Affairs, said the county began working on the project to boost census responses back in January 2018.

“We had plenty of challenges: 13 of 20 cities in San Mateo have a combination of hard-to-count census tracks, as well as unincorporated areas all over the county,” she said. 

Hard-to-count groups include renters, noncitizen residents with limited English proficiency and children under 5 years old, she added. California itself is a hard-to-count state. 

The county’s lack of affordable housing means many addresses are not known to the Census Bureau because they are tied to “nontraditional” housing units, such as converted garages and recreational vehicles. In other cases, people living in rural areas would not get the letters or questionnaires because the bureau will not deliver them to post office boxes, which most rural residents rely on. 

“We worked with city planners and local organizations to canvass areas with those nontraditional units and add their addresses to the master list of the census,” Gosh said. 

That county project was able to add 2,000 addresses to the census master files. Using a conservative two persons per household, those additions would have resulted in $4 million per year for the county because population counts are tied to distribution of federal and state resources. They also are used to create electoral districts that are meant to ensure political representation of all communities. Undercounts tend to shortchange that representation. 

Gosh and other county and community leaders described the more than two-year effort to get up-close, personal knowledge of those communities and what makes them tick,  sometimes having to correct course and tailor messages to convince residents to participate in the census.   

“For example, we received word that Daly City renters were hesitant to take the census due to lack of trust in sharing their information,” explained Melissa Vergara, a census specialist with San Mateo County. “So we created a targeted door hanger that spoke specifically about confidentiality laws for the census.” 

Other areas are receiving “hyper-targeted” messages through social media campaigns and internet ads by zip code, videos and bus shelter billboards. Also helping was outreach through faith congregations and in different languages, depending on local ethnic composition.

Creativity and flexibility are key components of the strategies local organizations have used. Rita Mancera, executive director of Puente de la Costa Sur in Pescadero, said her community was seriously undercounted in the 2010 census, and “not one platform works by itself” in reaching everyone. 

“The 2010 census counted 2,019 residents in our community, but we knew we served at least 1,600 individuals, so our estimate is that we had between 5,000 and 6,000 residents, most of whom had been missed,” Mancera said. She estimates that only about 33% of the community was counted in 2010. So far this year, Pescadero’s response rate is 46.1%.  “And it was very hard to get there,” she adds. 

Many immigrant residents have trust issues because of their experience in their home countries, Mancera says. But the organization has used its relationship with those communities and families to get them to participate in the census. 

“We distribute help to about 200 households every Thursday, urging them to use phones to respond to the census,” she explained. “We hired one person to call about 250 families that had received school supplies from us last year, so we could assist them in answering the census over the phone. There is also a lot of informal communication going on.” 

An example of how a motivated community working with a trusted local organization can surpass expectations also occurred in Pacifica, a city where the self-response rate has been higher than that of neighboring, more affluent San Carlos. 

“We leverage the trust they have in us,” said Anita Rees, executive director of Pacifica Resource Center. “Our organization has been serving the area for 45 years. This is a passionate community, often divided on issues, but the census has become common ground. For us, the message that the census is their voice being heard has worked, and also the community is competitive — they wanted to beat out San Carlos.” 

Outreach to the Asian community has been highly targeted, said Nina Li, outreach coordinator for San Mateo County. More than 30% of the population of the county is Asian. Chinese, Tagalog and Hindi are the most spoken non-English languages, aside from Spanish. 

Immigration status has been key to reach the diverse Asian populations, aside from language, said Li, who like many in her community is a non-citizen legal permanent resident who is experiencing her first decennial census. 

“For many in our community, this is a new concept, and they have the misconception that this is similar to an election where you have to be a citizen to participate, which is not the case,” Lee said. 

Li says their outreach efforts have used We Chat, a social media platform popular in Asia, and targeted messages to permanent residents and even temporary visa holders. 

“I am not a citizen, but I go to parks and libraries, I use public transportation, and my daughter is going to go to public schools, all services impacted by the 2020 census for the next 10 years,” she said. “We make sure people know that.” 

 Lisa Tealer, executive director of the Bay Area Community Health Advisory Council, said African Americans, Latinos and others in East Palo Alto respond to the idea of regaining the power of “being counted,” a phrase that historically has had negative connotations because the census was used to discriminate against some communities in the past. 

“We now claim it as power, we want to be counted because we helped build this country,” Tealer said. 

Similarly, the Pacific Islander community residents respond to the idea that the census is a way to ensure resources for the new generations, said Talavoy Aumavae, leader in the San Mateo County Pacific Islander Complete Count Committee. 

“We stressed the fact that our ancestors had migrated here for better opportunities for their families, and it’s imperative that we tie the census response to our futures,”  Aumavae said. 

 

Invisible, Undercounted & Disenfranchised

For generations, millions of Americans whose roots lie in the Middle East and North Africa — MENA — have essentially become invisible people because the Census Bureau has denied requests for their own racial category.

“Legally, in America, I’m classified as white,” says Dr. Hamoud Salhi, associate dean of the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, CSU-Dominguez Hills. “I was born in Algeria, which is part of Africa, so technically I could declare myself as African American, but I can’t.”

Palestinian-American Loubna Qutami, a President’s postdoctoral fellow at U.C. Berkeley specializing in ethnic studies, says that since MENA doesn’t have a classification of its own, it legally falls under the white category.

MENA populations have their own specific needs for health care, education, language assistance and civil rights protection, but they have no way to advocate for themselves because numerically they are folded into the category of white Americans.

To change this, Dr. Salhi, Dr. Qutami and other MENA leaders have been mobilizing their communities to participate in the 2020 census, encouraging people to write in their ethnicity. They spoke 10 other experts and activists on a May 13 two-hour video conference organized by Ethnic Media Services on the historical, linguistic and political challenges  that make the MENA population among the hardest to count in California.

Geographically, MENA populations live on three continents — from the border of Afghanistan south to the tip of Africa — and in 22 nations in the Middle East alone, with numerous subgroups such as Kurds, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Armenians.

“North Africa is actually a concept that the French gave to Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, which they colonized,” says Dr. Salhi. The neighboring countries of Egypt and Libya were added later.

Because of their shared Arabic language and Islamic religion, people in the United States from North Africa were lumped together with people of the Middle East to form the MENA acronym.

For decades, the Census Bureau has turned down requests to add MENA to the official category of races, currently white, black or African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian American and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander.

The result, says Dr. Qutami, artificially props up the white population count, which has been in decline, while suppressing the count of MENA residents who don’t identify themselves as white. According to the 2015 Census Bureau’s “National Content Test – Race and Ethnicity Report, “As expected, the percent reporting as White is significantly lower with the inclusion of a distinct MENA category when compared to treatments with no MENA category.”

California mirrors the challenge to the MENA population of geographic size and diversity, says Emilio Vaca, deputy director of the state’s Complete Count Committee, which directs census outreach. The Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey reported that  11 million of California’s 40 million residents, about 27%, are immigrants.

“That’s equivalent to the entire state of Georgia,” Vaca emphasized. At home, most of those immigrants speak one or more of 200 languages other than English.

Homarya Yusufi, from the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans, broke down the face of diversity in just one San Diego neighborhood that her organization serves: “We have 45 different national origins — from MENA, Asia and Latin America — who speak more than 100 languages in the 6.5-mile City Heights district, a distinct community of refugees and immigrants.” Educating and motivating these groups to participate in the census is a way to engage them in the civic life of the wider city.

Historical necessity — what specific immigrant groups have done to survive — also plays a role in the MENA undercount. Up until the mid-20th century, only whites could own property, and only “free white immigrants” could become American citizens.

To survive and advance, Middle Eastern immigrants successfully petitioned the federal courts to be allowed to identify themselves as white in 1920. North African immigrants, as members of the MENA population, got pulled along and found themselves legally classified as white as well.

The discriminatory policy for citizenship and property ownership favoring whites only ended with passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952.  But even then, MENA communities found it difficult to raise funds and mobilize calls for action to address their needs. They didn’t know where their fellow compatriots were located and couldn’t raise official numbers to request funds and resources.

“We were helpless. In many instances, we had to generate our own data,” says Dr. Qutami.

Over the years, the Census Bureau has never clearly answered why they’ve refused to include the MENA classification, despite concluding, in a 2017 report, that “the inclusion of a MENA category helps MENA Respondents to more accurately report their MENA identities.”

The bureau again turned down the 2018 request for the 2020 census. Karen Battle, chief of the bureau’s population division, announced in a public meeting on census preparations that “We do feel that more research and testing is needed.”

MENA advocates believe filling out the 2020 census is the only way to avoid another undercount. Without doing this, Yusufi says, “our communities will continue to be invisible and left in the margins because data really matters.”

Gaining services customized to MENA’s needs is only part of what’s at stake. So, too, argues Yusufi, is building power. MENA populations then can elect individuals “who reflect the needs of our communities and hold lawmakers accountable” when they stigmatize MENA communities.

Kathay Feng of the nonpartisan watchdog Common Cause emphasized that participation in the census is the first step to representation. In America, resources and rights are accorded by representation based on the number of residents at all levels, from the state down to the municipality, in proportion to the total population.

“Everyone is counted, regardless of immigration status or whether they are registered voters or not,” Feng said, “because all residents pay taxes in one way or another, and most immigrants would eventually become citizens in the long run.”

Every 10 years, immediately after the decennial census submits population data, electoral districts are redrawn. In California, which has been at the forefront of redistricting reforms, the old practice of allowing legislators to draw district lines based on which populations are sure to vote them back into office — known as gerrymandering — was replaced in 2009 by independently selected commissioners. Nine other states have followed California’s lead.

But, Feng emphasized, to be effective and to ensure their voices are heard, residents have to be  engaged at the local level.  And this year, there is a danger that anti-immigrant forces will restrict the residents who count in redistricting to voters only.

“In the city of El Cajon, San Diego, we faced a lot of discrimination, especially when the Syrian refugees arrived. Our children got bullied in school but the schools didn’t want to adopt any bullying policy because we don’t have representation,” said Dilkhwaz Ahmed, executive director of License to Freedom. “Representation is very important to us as a Kurdish community, as refugees, and as immigrants.”

Emilio Vaca is optimistic that California can meet the undercount challenge: “As of May 11, California has a self-response rate of 59.6%, which is above the national average of 58%.” This is all the more impressive, Vaca noted, given how the pandemic has affected outreach.

Many of the speakers on the call testified to the ongoing efforts to shift to virtual outreach and “drive by” caravans and taking the census to where the people are.

“We had a food bank event for the Middle Eastern and Muslim community in south Sacramento that attracted more than 2,000 families who came by cars, and we actually engaged with them about the census in every single car,” said Basim Elkarra, executive director of CAIR in Sacramento. “Many were recent refugees.”

The 2020 census form doesn’t include the MENA racial category, but Question 9 allows respondents to write in “MENA” and their specific ethnicities such as Lebanese, Palestinian, Algerian or Kurd.

Being visible in the 2020 census, the speakers agreed, will lay the foundation for the next few MENA generations to build on what this generation has started.

 


Image: Siti Aisyah, Pixabay

Congress Asked to “Save” Census 2020

“A nightmare” is how Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), defines what the coronavirus pandemic has meant to the carefully planned efforts to make the nation’s Latino community count in the 2020 Census.

“We are moving forward with a new strategy and message, but deep down we know that there is no way to get to a full count without door-to-door visits” he said. “And at this point, we don’t know if the Census Bureau will be able to be on the street doing that follow-up work as planned in June (the original date would have been mid-May). I think by the end of this month the writing will be on the wall.”

NALEO and other groups continue to work to “turn the boat around” — to make the transition from hundreds of in-person events and follow-ups to paid and earned media to reach the so-called “hard-to-count” Latino community vulnerable to undercounts. But the confidence that the result will be reliable is fading with each passing day.

Arturo Vargas, Executive Director, NALEO

“Postponing the census until next year is an option that should be on the table,” Vargas added. “There is no reason to risk the health of the enumerators or the public.”  Congress will have to act because the statute sets two dates for delivering this data to Congress and the states. Brazil has already postponed its census.

Part of the nightmare for Vargas and other Latino activists is that so far the response from this population has been, on average, too low. While Latino communities tend to be undercounted in every census, this year the situation was already complicated. And then, the coronavirus hit.

The Trump administration’s handling of the last few years of preparation for the 10-year count mightily complicated things, including the decision to include a citizenship question that was finally rejected by the Supreme Court. The damage remains, however, as surveys continue to record that many Latinos still believe they will have to answer a citizenship question in the census.

Experts say this inhibits community members’ participation because they fear their data would be mishandled or used for immigration enforcement or other purposes.

Nationally, 48.6% of households already had answered the basic nine-question form by April 14, but the numbers were much lower, on average, in areas with high Latino populations, said Dorian Caal, a NALEO researcher, and data analyst.

“If we look at counties with more than 50% Latino population nationwide, the average response is only 23.1%,” he said. “For counties with 20% or more Latinos, the response is 29.8%. The truth is that the fewer Latinos in an area, the higher the response. In other words, the Latino population’s participation is still far below average.”

Leaders expect Latino participation to improve after more than 60 million paper questionnaires are sent in mid-April to people who have not responded online. Research indicates that the paper response is the one most favored by Latinos.

Some small cities with high Latino populations, particularly those with nearby rural areas populated by many farmworkers and migrants, have desperately low census response numbers. Two examples in Fresno County: The city of Huron has a 6.3% response and the city of San Joaquin 4.6%.

In California, whose response exceeds the national average, 49.2% of the population has filled out the census compared to the nation’s 48.6%. California has spent more than $180 million promoting the census to secure its piece of the pie. States like Texas, which spent no money on outreach, have seen a lower return — 44.2% so far.

The situation in tribal areas is even dimmer because of the difficulties of carrying out the work door-to-door at a time when many tribal nations are restricting access to their lands and have a negligible online response level.

Also having a negative effect is the suspension of a program called “update and leave” that reconfirms the addresses of highly mobile or remote households and where workers leave census packets in person, said Caal.

Although only 5% of households were on these “update and leave” lists, some states have higher percentages of such addresses. This is the case in New Mexico (37.7%) and Alaska (32.4%).

The fair distribution of more than $1.5 billion in federal spending and political representation in the nation over the next 10 years depends on an accurate census.

But the Census Bureau had no plans for carrying out a census during a pandemic. Just three days after this interview with Vargas, the unthinkable happened: Census Bureau leaders and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross asked Congress for a four-month delay in the statutory deadlines for delivering population data to the executive and legislative branches.

The next day, President Trump said that perhaps this delay was “not enough” and that perhaps “we don’t have to ask Congress because it is an act of God.”

For NALEO, however, while the delay is logical, it represents a serious risk to the quality of the resulting data. There is a danger that the final result will be “incomplete and inadequate,” according to a statement from the organization.

Vargas called on Congress to intensify its oversight role of the face-to-face follow-up phase of the census to maintain the process’s integrity.

“Congress has the authority and obligation to work with the Bureau to take the necessary steps to ensure an accurate census of all U.S. residents,” he said.

The request by census leaders and the Department of Commerce would extend data collection until October 31, 2020, with the numbers delivered to the president and Congress by April 30 and July 31, 2021, respectively. President Trump´s current term in office ends January 20, 2021.

But according to the experts, time is not on the side of the census. The data will become more and more imprecise the further the fieldwork moves away from the April 1 date, which is when the “picture” of the country is supposed to be taken. All answers must be related by law to who was residing at home, at school, or in the country on that day, and not after.

“The Constitution places the responsibility for the census in the hands of Congress,” according to a NALEO statement on April 14.  “In light of that obligation, it is time for Congress to step up to the plate and intensely monitor the 2020 Census if we are going to save it.“

Pilar Marrero is a contributor for Ethnic Media Services.


Photo by Louis Velazquez on Unsplash

This American Snapshot Costs $1.5 Trillion Dollars a Year

Census Day, when the United States takes its once-every-decade collective selfie, is April 1.

Those who don’t include themselves in the decennial snapshot will cost themselves and their communities thousands of dollars’ worth of government tax spending — $1.5 trillion annually nationwide (https://tinyurl.com/Census-drivenSpending) for the next 10 years, and other benefits too, with no chance to get added to the picture until 2030.

But Census Day isn’t the actual deadline for being included. It’s just the day listed on the census questionnaires (https://tinyurl.com/2020censusquestionnaire): “How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2020?”

For this question, include yourself, all the kids, all the relatives or friends who live there, and roommates.  Information given to the census will never be shared with landlords.

Until the corona virus hit, the actual deadline for filling out the census was July 31.  Now the Census Bureau has extended the deadline to August 15.

The nine-question questionnaires themselves are already available for people to answer online,

At the website https://my2020census.gov, and will remain available in a dozen different languages until the Aug. 15 deadline.  Many people have already received “invitations” in the mail to answer the census online, with an ID number customized for their address.

Whether you have an invitation or not, you can still go to that https://my2020census.gov website and fill out the questionnaire. 

The Census Bureau has also begun sending out print copies of  the questionnaire through the mail. 

People can also be counted by making a telephone call, to (844) 330-2020 if they speak English, or to one of 13 numbers, listed below, for other languages.  The call centers, however, are not fully staffed due to stay-at-home orders for the corona virus, so this method could involve longer wait times on the phone.

You can also wait for an “enumerator,” a Census  Bureau employee who will be dispatched starting in May to visit addresses that have not yet responded online, or by mail, or by phone.

Although the Census Bureau says it has offered jobs to 600,000 people – 100,000 more than it anticipated hiring – it is also delaying the “onboarding” process, which includes fingerprinting and background checks, for at least a couple of weeks due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.

The census requirement is included in the U.S. Constitution, and a national census has been conducted every 10 years since 1790. Participation is required. 

From 1790 to 1820, Census Day was the first Monday of August. Then it was moved to early June until 1910, when it was moved to April 15.  In 1920, in an effort to avoid interfering with farm work, Census Day was Jan. 1.  But when that census showed how the country was becoming increasingly urbanized, Census Day was shifted to April 1, where it has remained ever since.

Census data is used to try to evenly distribute political representation in Congress.  Currently, every member of the 435-seat House of Representatives has about 750,000 constituents.

The data also helps businesses decide where to invest, helps state and local governments determine where new schools and roads are needed, and directs the federal government to where kids are living who qualify for Head Start, or need any of more than 100 other federally funded programs providing child care and development, education, nutrition, health care and much more.

The personal information the census collects – your name, address, age, race, the household phone number – is kept strictly confidential for 72 years.  The Census Bureau is forbidden to share that information with other government agencies, including police, the FBI, ICE, everybody.

California has invested more money than any other state in census outreach in an effort to ensure that all its people are counted this year.  The website CaliforniaCensus.gov can

Direct you to Questionnaire Assistance Centers and kiosks where you will be able to get some help filling out the forms if you need it.   

By May, if you haven’t filled out the census form, a census enumerator will come to your address.  There are several ways to make sure it’s really a census worker.  You can ask to see their official U.S. Census Bureau I.D. badge, which will have their name and photograph, along with an expiration date and a Department of Commerce watermark.

They will also be using a hand-held computer device and carrying a census bag. You can verify that they’re who they say they are by calling (800) 923-8282 to speak to a local representative.

Also, no census worker will ask about your citizenship status, or your social security number, or any banking information.  Nor will they ask for a payment or donation of any type. 

If you want help completing your census form, the Census Bureau has phone lines in 14 languages to provide that:

English (844) 330-2020

Spanish (844) 468-2020

Chinese (Mandarin) (844) 391-2020

Chinese (Cantonese)  (844) 398-2020

Vietnamese (844) 461-2020

Korean (844) 392-2020

Russian (844) 417-2020

Arabic (844) 416-2020

Tagalog (844) 478-2020

Polish (844) 479-2020

French (844) 494-2020

Haitian Creole (844) 477-2020

Portuguese (844) 474-2020

Japanese (844) 460-2020

The state of California is providing online assistance in the following languages: 

CQ Arabic: https://californiacensus.org/ar/

Armenian:  https://californiacensus.org/hy/

Khmer: https://californiacensusorg/km

Persian: https://californiacensus.org/fa/

Korean: https://californiacensus.org/ko/

Japanese: https://californiacensus.org/ja/

Punjabi: https://californiacensus.org/pa/

Russian: https://californiacensus.org/ru/

Chinese (simplified): https://californiacensus,org/zh-hans/

Chinese (traditional): https://californiacensus.org/zh-hant/

Tagalog: https://californiacensus.org/tg/

Vietnamese: https://californiacensus.org/vi/


Coverage for Census 2020 has been facilitated through a grant from the United Way Bay Area.

“Sanitize and Self-Respond” Urge Civil Rights Leaders

In the time of Coronavirus, the state’s diverse communities are told that participation in the U.S. Census is still crucially important, aside from safe and secure

The U.S. Census self-response phase went live on March 12, and civil rights leaders of diverse ethnic groups came together to remind their communities of the many legal and privacy protections guaranteed by federal law for people to participate in the decennial count.

They also encouraged them to continue to “self-respond” by phone, online or mail and outlined the steps they will follow to continue to reach out to hard-to-count communities, addressing at the same time the health emergency of the Covid-19 as an additional challenge in Census 2020.

“We encourage our communities to sanitize and self-respond”, said Jeri Green, 2020 Census Senior Advisor for the National Urban League.

The leaders emphasized that most Americans are now able to self-respond to the Census in the privacy of their own homes without having to meet a Census taker or enumerator. For example, people can go to https://2020census.gov/ and answer nine questions (seven for every person in the household other than the one filling out the questionnaire). They can also respond by phone or in printed form.

Several organizations have mounted massive campaigns to help their communities maximize their participation, given that the data collected by the US Census is used in the distribution of resources, funding of services and political representation through drawing of districts for Congress, State Legislatures, etc.

Beth Lynk, Census counts campaign Director for The Leadership Conference Education Fund said the Census is “one of the most urgent civil rights issues facing the country and right now every person in the US has a chance to ensure a fair and complete count to all communities”.

Knowing that many in their communities have privacy concerns on the use of the data they will be sharing with the Census, the leaders reminded that the information has extraordinary levels of legal protection.

John Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice pointed to the laws that govern the use of the data given to the U.S. Census Bureau as “the strongest privacy protections allowed in the United States”.

Asian Americans are among the communities where there are many undocumented immigrants and mixed-status households, which creates mistrust towards the government and could affect a complete count. Every person living in the United States by April 1 must be counted, and that includes undocumented immigrants.

“The confidentiality provision known as Title 13 prevents the government from using the Census data for any purpose other than the statistical one”, said Yang. “More importantly, the bureau and its employees are not allowed to share the data with any other government agency or officials for any reason”.

Certain information gathered by the Census cannot be published for 72 years, such as the name of the individual, business or organization, address or telephone number. Another layer of laws prohibits the use of data in any way against the individual who responded.

Yang pointed to their hotline for the Asian and Pacific Islander Community in several languages as a crucial resource to answer questions: 844-2020-API or 844-202-0204.

Other communities share the same privacy concern. This is a very important issue in black communities, said Green, of the Urban League, whose 90 affiliates are hard at work reassuring their members of the security of the data and the importance of participation.

“We are fighting to ensure that the black population, including immigrants, lose no ground, be it economic, political or in civil rights”, she emphasized. “The stakes are too high, please go to makeblackcount.org to learn more about our efforts”.

Lycia Maddox, Vice President of External Affairs for the National Congress of American Indians (which also includes Alaska Natives) said that the tribal nations across the country present a special challenge due to restrictions they have imposed on access to their lands, due to the Coronavirus.

“These communities often have no access to online and broadband to self-respond, and these new security measures make it impossible for enumerators to visit them and it delays mail delivery”, Maddox said. “We are as we speak working with different networks to come up with plans, and to increase community outreach and advertising”.

Lizette Escobedo, Census Director for the National Association of Latino and Elected Officials (NALEO) invited Latinos to call the bilingual Spanish-English hotline 877 ELCENSO or 877 352-3672 where there will be live paid operator answering questions and watching for reports of potential scammers or disinformation.

The organization has trained 3500 Census Ambassadors to assist the community in 15 states in filling out the Census and has launched two national campaigns, “Hágase contar and Hazme contar” focused on the larger Latino community and children younger than four, which experienced a large undercount in the 2010 Census.

Additional paid media campaigns will remind people that there is absolutely “NO CITIZENSHIP QUESTION” in the Census and addressing “fears of data privacy and cybersecurity”.

An additional ad campaign targeting Latina Millennials who are English-dominant was launched 2 months ago.

“Ensuring an accurate count seems like a heavier lift as every day happens folks have mentioned, we are committed to working with national local and media partners to do what we can to ensure that Latinos are heard, seen and counted this 2020 census”, she added.

In the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, organizations are revising the way they conduct the outreach to maintain community safety,

“Several grassroots organizations are moving to phone banks and text banks because the table opportunities are very restrictive right now and we want to exercise caution”, said Yang. “We are also leaving drop off literature in supermarkets, community centers, and clinics”.

Ditas Katague, from the California Complete count office, said that the state of California has spent more than all the other states combined to reach out to the hardest to count populations and ensure everyone participates.

“The investment is unprecedented, a total of 172.2 million dollars and is larger than all other states combined, we are on a league of our own”, said Katague. “We have unique challenges, a diverse population, and a large geographic size. We have 120 partners throughout the state and we are coordinating the largest mobilization of partners in our state´s history”.

The leaders reiterated that their overall goal is that every Californian understands that the Census is not only “safe and secure”, and vital for the future of all the communities. “The goal is to ensure that everyone is invited and able to participate in the 2020 Census”, said Beth Lynk of the Leadership Conference.

Pilar Marrero is a journalist and author with long experience in covering social and political issues of the Latino community in the United States. She is one of the foremost experts on immigration policy and politics in the US media world and has covered the issue extensively during her years as a reporter. Marrero is the author of the books “Killing the American Dream” and “El Despertar del Sueño Americano.

Belief in a Myth Can Cost Us a Decade

I keep trying to put ten years into perspective. Ten years ago, my prevailing concern was getting into college. Ten years later, my prevailing concern is the Coronavirus pandemic. It is inevitable that there will be a next ‘thing’ we must focus our energy on but we shouldn’t forget that Census 2020 is currently underway. The census comes once a decade and will measurably affect our lives for the foreseeable future. 

It is imperative, then, that Census 2020 be accurate. 

The census is a series of questions from which….arise more questions? Disclosing race, income, citizenship status conflicts with our sensibility to keep information private. However, if that information is to benefit the community around me, I would like for it to be done in a thorough way. Racially identifying Indian, I generally get frustrated with the box that demarks all Asians as the same. I know I’m not the only one. Then I think about my friends who are mixed race and the complications they face.

But like a true millennial, I am quick to jump to conclusions. So I recruited my mixed race friends, Ajay Srinivas and Nisha Kumar, to help me explore the myths and realities of Census 2020. 

Nisha predicted using a biracial/mixed race option and Ajay said he would identify as South Asian and West Indian. 

A quick FAQ search on census site informed us that: 

Answers to this question should be based on how you identify. Each person can decide how to answer. You can mark more than one race for each person. Once you check a category, you’ll also be asked to write in the person’s origin.

  • White: The category “White” includes all individuals who identify with one or more nationalities or ethnic groups originating in Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. These groups include, but are not limited to, German, Irish, English, Italian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Polish, French, Iranian, Slavic, Cajun, and Chaldean.
  • Black or African American: The category “Black or African American” includes all individuals who identify with one or more nationalities or ethnic groups originating in any of the black racial groups of Africa. Examples of these groups include, but are not limited to, African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, and Somali. The category also includes groups such as Ghanaian, South African, Barbadian, Kenyan, Liberian, and Bahamian.
  • American Indian or Alaska Native: The category “American Indian or Alaska Native” includes all individuals who identify with any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment. It includes people who identify as “American Indian” or “Alaska Native” and includes groups such as Navajo Nation, Blackfeet Tribe, Mayan, Aztec, Native Village of Barrow Inupiat Traditional Government, and Nome Eskimo Community. Census respondents should report the person’s American Indian or Alaska Native tribe or tribes in the space provided.
  • Asian: There are individual checkboxes for people who identify as one or more of the following: Chinese, Filipino, Asian Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Other Asian (including Pakistani, Cambodian, and Hmong)
  • Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: There are individual checkboxes for people who identify as one or more of the following: Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro, Other Pacific Islander (including Tongan, Fijian, and Marshallese)
  • Some Other Race: The option “Some other race” includes all responses that don’t fit within the categories above.

Nisha would be able to use the multiple check marks to identify her half-Indian and half-White origins, but Ajay was a little more confused. “Will the Census account for my Trini population?…Will my diaspora benefit from the write-in option considering West Indian is marked as Black/African American and I’m of Indian descent?” 

Ajay highlighted that there are many Indian diaspora populations in countries outside the Asian marker. Those populations benefit from their voice being represented and are left at a disadvantage when lumped with South Asians or Blacks/African Americans. 

These were good questions I didn’t have answers to. This will be the first year that we have a write-in option. And perhaps, until we use the write-in option, we may not know of its impact.

What we do know is that there is a possible outcome the census can have. I ask Nisha and Ajay about the potential influence and receive well informed responses. Ajay and Nisha both agree that it will arbitrate “federal funding and resource allocation”. 

I cross-check their information with that provided by the U.S. Census Bureau:

Information on race is required for many Federal programs and is critical in making policy decisions, particularly for civil rights. States use the data to meet legislative redistricting principles. Race data is used to promote equal employment opportunities and to assess racial disparities in health and environmental risks.

Nisha, Ajay, and I are in consensus on why it is crucial that we fill out the census. However, things aren’t so simple, right? 

PRIVACY. FEAR. DATA USE. Do we have something to be apprehensive about with the census?

Nisha decidedly responds, “I am not worried for myself but I understand the fear of filling out the census if you’re undocumented. How can I ensure the information won’t be used against them? We’ve seen it happen with DACA.”

Ajay corroborates, “There is a fear that census data will be used maliciously by the Trump administration against POC, DACA, minorities, immigrants, etc.”

I resonate with their anxiety for the people around them but sometimes research is a panacea. I find that:

The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. In fact, every employee takes an oath to protect your personal information for life.

The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to keep your information confidential. This law protects your answers to the 2020 Census. Under Title 13, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies. The law ensures that your private data is protected and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. Violating Title 13 is a federal crime, punishable by prison time and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

The answers you provide are used only to produce statistics. You are kept anonymous: the Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release your responses in any way that could identify you or anyone else in your home.

Make it a part of your daily tasks – drink chai, eat cereal, take the census, shower, laundry, lunch, etc. 

And if that isn’t enough of an encouragement, taking the census is a legal obligation and you can be fined $5,000 for not completing it and up to $10,000 for falsifying information.

The census information should be mailed to you between March 12- March 20 and you have until April 1st to complete the census by mail, on the phone, or online

It is our social responsibility to urge everyone to take the 2020 Census. You are equipped with the knowledge to ease the worry that others might have. Don’t forget – we are what we report. 

Srishti Prabha is the current Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for women and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

California Tribes Hold Festive Launch For Census

EUREKA, CA — A kickoff event for getting a full count of California’s Native American population in the 2020 Census featured heaps of swag, a free feast, a live band, dance performance, bingo and more.

“We’re really happy with the turnout, even if it’s for the bingo and free food,” Madison Flynn, assistant director of the Northern California Indian Development Council said during one of the speeches exhorting census participation that organizers peppered into the mix along with the evening’s other activities.

“We’re trying to make something visible that’s been invisible too long.”

The event was held on the evening of March 6 at the Sequoia Conference Center in Eureka, Humboldt County. Flynn and other speakers emphasized that when it comes to allocating government spending, decision-makers always want data — “How many people will benefit from this program?” And across the United States, that means census data.

The latest estimate is that every year, $1.5 trillion in federal tax spending is distributed based on that data, which is only collected once every decade and not updated till the next census, 10 years later. For the 2020s, that “once” begins in mid-March, when mailings will be sent to every known address with instructions on how to complete the nine-question census form.

Separating the dining tables and stage from the child care area and a huge movie screen were tables set up by the U.S. Census Bureau, the California Governor’s Office, the California Native Vote Project, the California Indian Manpower Consortium and more, offering informational flyers, T-shirts, trinkets, treats and more.

There were piles of T-shirts handed out, most of them including messages urging people to be counted in the census and to identify themselves by their tribal affiliation, whether Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa Valley or Tolowa Dee-ni’. Although the census form allows people to identify themselves however they see fit, tribal advocates urged people to choose only one, to maximize to their tribe the share of funding and representation tied to census data that would accrue per person counted.

Speakers addressed themes also detailed in the informational flyers available at the various tables, such as: “50 Ways Census Data Are Used,” “Common Questions About the Census,” “The 2020 Census and Confidentiality,” “Our Kids Count” (the census is intended to count everyone, of every age, and kids younger than 5 are the most-frequently overlooked population nationwide. Native Americans are the most-overlooked ethnic population – by at least 4.9% in 2010, the Census Bureau figures) and more.

“There’s hope that if we show up we can actually be heard and take the power that was taken from us and flip it,” Flynn said. “Everybody’s thinking that nobody exists here and tribes are extinct. Part of what we’re trying to do is talk about the fact that native people are still here.”

The Census Bureau is sending out mailings nationwide on March 12 with instructions on how to fill out the census online, the preferred, least-expensive method for the government to perform this Constitutionally required duty. People can also fill out the questionnaire over the phone and, as a last resort, the Census Bureau will send out “enumerators” it has hired – and there are still jobs available to do this in Humboldt County, paying $18 per hour – to visit addresses that have not responded, starting in May.

People can also visit community centers to fill out the census, which is expected to take, on average, about 10 minutes. Three places in Smith River for doing this are: the Howonquet Hall Community Center during open council meetings and on “Census Day” (April 1), the K’vsh-chu Tribal Office from mid-March to May 8, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m, or the Education Department, on the same dates but only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

There will be more, such as the Klamath or Weitchpec tribal offices on April 1, May 1 or June 1 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., the California Indian Big Time on April 4 in Arcata, the First 5 Humboldt event in Eureka April 7 and 8 and the First 5 Del Norte in Crescent City April 10-11.

“We are in a climate where this really, really matters. It’s California versus the federal government now,” another speaker said. California has allocated $187 million toward getting a full count of the state’s people in the 2020 Census, more than all other states combined.

Getting a complete count in Indian Country has always been a challenge for many reasons, including mistrust and skepticism of government, poverty, inaccessibility and more. Recent changes and proposed changes, from the shift to online data gathering and the attempt — ultimately rejected by the Supreme Court — to add a question about people’s citizenship, are expected to make it even harder this year to get accurate information about who’s in America now and where.

“An accurate counting of Native Americans is particularly important because of the government-to-government relationship tribes have with the federal government,” Bill Anoatubby, governor of Chickasaw Nation, said in a remark posted on the screens set up throughout the hall. “The federal government has treaty responsibilities to provide education, health care, housing and other services to Native Americans. Therefore, an accurate count of people from each Native American Nation or Tribe is essential in outlining the details of those responsibilities. By participating, we speak for the generations of native people that preceded us and for those yet to come.”

“Go home to your people who don’t want to be counted,” Joshua Standing Horse, the Census Bureau’s recently hired tribal partnership specialist for Northern California said. “Turn the system that’s been used against us to make it FOR us.”

Mark Hedin is a reporter for Ethnic Media Services. He has previously written for the Oakland Tribune, the Central City Extra, the San Francisco Chronicle, El Mensajero, the San Francisco Examiner and other papers.


This article was originally published here.

Civil Rights Groups Come Together for Census 2020

As the 2020 Census gets underway, a group of four civil rights organizations has organized telephone hotlines in a range of languages to provide information and, when needed, legal referrals for people unsure about filling out the questionnaires.

The once-every-10-years census provides the government with information it uses to annually distribute hundreds of billions of tax dollars’ worth of services and guide the creation and realignment of political boundaries for allocating representation in Congress, the Electoral College and local governments across the United States.

The census, included in the original 18th century wording of the U.S. constitution, is the country’s largest peacetime project and participation is required by law. It invariably falls short of its mission to count absolutely everyone, no matter if they’re citizens, English speakers, homeowners, renters or homeless.

But the census is intended and widely understood to be risk-free and a benefit to all who participate, so the four organizations: the Arab American Institute; Asian Americans Advancing Justice; the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights; and NALEO (the National Association of Latino Elected Officials), are stepping up to provide confidential information to the communities they serve. 

The telephone hotlines will operate throughout the census data collection period. Census questionnaires have already been distributed to some communities, but the effort begins in earnest in mid-March and April. Follow-up operations to include those who have not responded to initial Census Bureau outreach efforts will continue through July. The hotlines will operate throughout that entire time.

Callers who speak Arabic are invited to call 833 333-6864, or 844-3DDOUNI (“Count me,” in Arabic). This line is staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST already. As of March 1, the hours will be extended to 9 p.m. EST. The Arab American Institute promises to return voicemail messages within 24 hours.

Those whose preferred language is Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Urdu, Hindi or Bengali/Bangla can call (844) 202-0274, or (844) 2020-API. This line is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST through the end of July, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice promises to return all voice mail messages within 24-48 hours.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights will operate its hotline (800) 268-6820, also 888-Count20, through the end of July. It’s working now from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST and beginning March 2 will remain staffed until 9 p.m. EST. The organization promises to return voice mail messages left at other times on the following business day.

NALEO’s line, for Spanish speakers, (877) 352-3676 or 877-EL-CENSO, is operating from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST. Voice mail messages will be responded to on the next business day after they are received.

The hotlines will all also field calls from English-language speakers.

The organizations expect to field a range of calls about the census from basic information requests to legal questions or concerns about incidents that require follow-up.

Together with the Leadership Conference, the Brennan Center and MALDEF (the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund), the groups have also organized a network of legal specialists across the country to respond to questions ranging from basic obligations regarding the census to concerns about threats to disrupt census participation.

The organizations have previously performed hotline services to protect election integrity.

One widespread concern about the 2020 Census is whether respondents can trust that personal information they provide will truly be kept confidential, as promised and required by law. Applicable laws include some of the strictest confidentiality regulations anywhere in government, such as fines of up to $250,000 and years of incarceration for anyone who shares people’s personal information with other government agencies such as police, ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or the Border Patrol, to name just a few examples.

But in case those laws and promises aren’t enough, the organizations, with MALDEF leading the way, have also developed a census confidentiality protection pledge. Intended to boost confidence among so-called hard-to-count populations, it commits a coalition of individuals and organizations to using their power and influence to address, deter and end any breaches of census data confidentiality.

The Census Bureau, as part of its own efforts to overcome language barriers, has prepared a series of 27 instructional videos about the census. They range from nearly 10 to almost 20 minutes in length in each of the following languages: Amharic12:47, Arabic13:53, Armenian11:29,  Bengali13:19, simplified Cantonese9:51, traditional Cantonese9:52, English9:25, Farsi14:21, French11:02, German12:29, Greek11:57, Haitian Creole10:37, Hindi11:55, Italian10:59, Japanese11:39, Korean11:13, simplified Mandarin10:01, traditional Mandarin10:02, Polish13:34, Portuguese10:45, Russian11:58, Somali14:38, Spanish11:43, Tagalog12:10, Thai, Ukrainian12:50 and Vietnamese10:33.

 

What Will The 2020 Census Ask you?

We’ve had years of worry about the confidentiality of people’s census responses, what purposes those responses would be used for, plus the possibility – now abandoned – of being asked about citizenship status. With the 2020 census now officially under way, here’s a look at what those census questionnaires will actually ask us.

There are nine questions on the primary census form (https://tinyurl.com/2020censusquestionnaire). The first asks how many people live in the household. For each of those people, there’s a of seven-question second form. Here are all the questions, starting with the nine asked of every household:

  • “How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2020?”
  • “Were there any additional people staying here on April 1 that you did not include in Question 1?”

This question offers five possible responses, in the form of checkboxes, to describe such additional people as children, relatives, live-in babysitters, guests or, in the fifth check-box, “no additional people.”

  • “Is this house, apartment or mobile home –”

Here, the check-boxes offer four ways to complete the sentence, ranging from “owned by a resident via a mortgage or a loan,” to owned outright, rented or occupied rent-free.

  • “What is your telephone number?”

The questionnaire states that you would only be contacted “if needed for official Census Bureau business.”

  • The fifth question is specifically directed to the person who pays the rent or owns the residence, and it asks for that person’s first and last names and middle initial. From then on, this person is referred to as “Person 1.”
  •  “What is Person 1’s sex?”

There are two choices given: male and female.

  • Question 7 asks for Person 1’s age and date of birth.
  • Question 8 asks if Person 1 is of “Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?”

The question offers five check-boxes for responding. The first is “No.” The second is Mexican, Mexican-American or Chicano. The third is Puerto Rican, the fourth is Cuban and the fifth “Yes, another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.” This option is followed by space to write in a more specific description, such as “Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian, Guatemalan, Spaniard, Ecuadorian, etc.”

The instructions for this question say, “for this census, Hispanic origins are not races,” and ask respondents, after answering this question, to continue to the next and final question.

  • “What is Person 1’s race?”

Here, respondents have 15 check-boxes to choose from, along with five places where they can write in a specific origin.

For instance, after the first check-box, for “white,” respondents are asked to write whether they are, “for example, German, Irish, English, Italian, Lebanese, Egyptian, etc.”

The next check-box, for “Black of African Am.” also has a write-in line. Its examples of possible responses are: “African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Somali, etc.”

The third check box is for American Indian or Alaska Native and asks respondents here to print the name of “enrolled or principle tribe(s)” and gives as examples “Navajo Nation, Blackfeet Tribe, Mayan, Aztec, Native Village of Barrow Inupiat Traditional  Government, Nome Eskimo community, etc.”

After this are 11 more check boxes, for “Chinese, Filipino, Asian Indian, Other Asian,  Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro, Other Pacific Islander.”

Beneath is a space in which to “Print, for example, Pakistani, Cambodian, Hmong, etc.” if you’ve checked the box for “Other Asian.” Or, if you’ve checked the “Other Pacific Islander” box, to specify “for example, Tongan, Fijian, Marshallese, etc.”

Finally, there’s one more check box, for “Some other race,” with space to write in a specific “race or origin.”

For those households with more than one person, there is a separate, seven-question form for each additional household member. Most of these questions are the same ones Person 1 will have answered, described above, starting with name.

But Question 2, instead of asking if anyone else lives in the household, inquires if “Person 2” usually lives or stays somewhere else. There are nine possible responses offered here, from “no” to eight “yes” options: at college, in the military, for work, in a nursing home, with a relative, at a second or seasonal residence, incarcerated or “for another reason.”

Question 3 asks how Person 2 is related to Person 1. It offers 16 possibilities, from spouse or partner, with separate boxes for same-sex spouses or partners, to a variety of family relationships, such as son/daughter, adopted son/daughter, stepson/daughter, sibling, parent, grandchild, parent- son- or daughter-in-law, “other relative,” roommate, foster child or “other non-relative.”

The remaining four questions are the same as the last four posed to Person 1 about gender, age/birthday, Hispanic/Latino/Spanish origin and ethnicity.

Governments and community organizations are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to collect this information this year, and trillions of tax dollars will be distributed over the next decade based on what this data reveals about how many people live where and what their needs are.

And that’s not all – census data determines how many members of congress each state gets and how many electoral college votes. Businesses rely on census data, too, to decide where to invest. The list goes on and on.

Census data that identifies you personally is protected by the government’s most strict confidentiality rules — it’s kept sealed for 72 years.