Tag Archives: Census

Have You Counted Your Child?

The 2010 Census missed 1 Million Kids, 0 to 5. An undercount in 2020 will have a severe impact on federal funding for programs that serve our kids. These cuts will impact an entire generation over the next ten years. Fill out your Census form today!

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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.

Asian Diaspora Considers Their Identities

Bhutanese, Mongolians, Burmese, Nepalese among fastest-growing but invisible sector.

As the 2020 census begins in earnest, representatives of Nepalese, Burmese, Bhutanese and Mongolian immigrants joined census officials and community organizers at a briefing for Asian American media to discuss the high stakes of getting an accurate count for their communities.

Together with Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, these and other immigrants from Central, South and Southeast Asia represent the fastest growing sector of Asian immigrants to California over the last decade. Yet they are too new to have formed the civic organizations or media platforms to make their presence felt in the broader Asian American landscape.

Speakers agreed that being counted in the 2020 Census would change that.

Some 20% of Californians identified as Asian American-Pacific Islander in the 2010 census, said Hong Mei Pang of Chinese for Affirmative Action, which co hosted the March 5 briefing along with Ethnic Media Services.

“More immigrants come to the United States from Asia than from anywhere else,” Pang said. “But the Asian American community is not monolithic, and without an accurate count, these newer waves of Asian immigrants will be invisible.”

Stephanie Kim of United Way Bay Area echoed Pang’s point on the opening panel: “We have diverse needs requiring data and approaches customized to each community. If one of us is not counted, we all suffer from the undercount. If every one of us is counted, we all benefit.”

Linguistic and cultural isolation are challenges common to every recently arrived group. But speakers pointed to some immigrants’ experiences in their home countries that make them especially fearful of being counted.

Robin Gurung of Asian Refugees United, born and raised in Nepal, recalled how the Nepalese government used a census in the late 1980s to divide the country between native Nepalese and people of Bhutanese origin. He and his family were deported to Bhutan along with thousands of others. “So in the United States, there’s still a lot of worry and questions about the census – like what are the benefits, and what do we need to be careful about?”

“When they hear the word ‘census,’ it’s like a nightmare,” agreed Ganesh Subedi, of the Bhutanese Community Association of California. His community’s fear of government intrusion, he said, caused it to be vastly undercounted in the 2010 census.

Among its population of 45,000, he estimates, only 19,000 completed the census questionnaire.

In 2012, the Nepali Association of Northern California tried to collect census-type data on its own, the association’s former director Prem Pariyar said. But fear got the best of the community and the effort failed. Meanwhile, the community kept growing (http://facts.aapidata.com/nationaldata/) – by some 222% between 2010-2016, according to data compiled by Karthick Ramakrishnan of U.C. Riverside’s Center for Social Innovation.

“This is a great opportunity for us to establish our community,” Pariyar said. “We don’t want to lose our chance at being represented.”

Population growth of their communities was a common theme at the press briefing.

Myat Soe Mon, of One Myanmar community, spoke about ethnic cleansing in her country based on information the government gleaned under the pretext of conducting a census. “But here,” she said, “our population is growing. We have to keep moving forward.”

“The census data says we are just 32,000 Mongolians living in the U.S.,” noted Urtnasan Enkhbat, a student from Mongolia who wrote her senior thesis on Mongolians in the Bay Area. “We are a lot more. We have close to 10,000 just in the Bay Area.

Our numbers are growing rapidly, but it’s difficult to learn about us – we have no community centers or channels for communication.” She recently told a group of fellow Mongol immigrants, “We live in the U.S. But without data, we don’t exist in the U.S.”

Almost every speaker raised the issue of confidentiality as a further barrier in promoting the census.

Sonny Le, a refugee from Vietnam who has worked as a Partner Specialist for the Census Bureau since the 2000 Census, was quick to respond. Personal data collected by the census is forbidden to be disclosed to anyone for 72 years, even other government agencies and law enforcement, Le asserted. Penalties for violations run to a quarter million dollars and five years in prison. Nor has the data been breached.

Yet even among the Hmong, well-established now as the seventh largest population of Asian Americans, with a 13% increase between 2010 and 2016, the census is still an unknown.

“People my age had never heard about the census before,” said Tammy Vang, a Fresno-born daughter of Hmong refugees from Laos who works as a community organizer for Hmong Innovating Politics.

As the youngest speaker at the briefing, she also raised what for her is a deeply personal concern about the census — how to identify oneself in terms of gender.

“There is still a deep stigma attached to LGBTQ issues in the Hmong community,” she said, holding back tears. “The single binary choice on the census only makes it harder.”

Summing up the energy among attendees in the room, Gurung had the last word about the importance of the census: “We have to make ourselves visible. There’s nobody (else) out there who will.”


Originally published here.

Can a City Rise to the Census Count Without Funding?

Houston may already be the third most populous city in the United States, elbowing aside broad-shouldered Chicago and trailing New York and Los Angeles as first and second, respectively. We won’t know until the 2020 census is concluded.

“In most parts of the country, there has been little or very modest growth, but not in Texas,” said Dr. Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston speaking to a convening of census advocates and experts co-hosted by Houston in Action, the Leadership Conference Education Fund and Ethnic Media Services. “By far, we’ve added more people, according to the [Census Bureau’s] Community Survey, than any other state.”

Texas may have gained as many as 4 million people since 2010, Murray said.

The convening represented the first formal briefing about the 2020 census for and with news outlets representing a broad spectrum of audiences from Hispanic, African American, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean to Nepalese, Asian Indian, and African diaspora communities.

Echoing the sense of pride in Houston’s growth, many speakers called the census an opportunity for the city’s increasingly diverse communities to stand up and be counted. A large percentage of the state’s growth stemmed from Latino births and immigration, but its fastest growing demographic is the Asian American community, according to Nabila Mansour of the Empowering Communities Initiative.

“We’ve had about 128% growth from the year 2000,” Mansour reported. “Asian Americans in Texas, we’re about 1.5 million, and 27% of Asian Americans live in Harris County or Fort Bend.” Houston is the county seat of Harris County, Richmond, Fort Bend’s County’s seat, is less than 40 miles away.

Mansour said her organization’s staff spend a lot of time going into East and South Asian communities to educate them about the importance of the census, especially since residents who arrived in the United States after 2010 may have had no experience with a census in their country of origin.

Numbers matter. The aggregate per person count is used to calculate the annual federal dollar allotments Texas counties and cities will receive to fund many state and local programs, from Medicaid to hospital and school construction and road building. One estimate is that Houston alone would lose $3.78 billion in federal funding between now and the 2030 census if the city’s population is undercounted by 10%.

Within the 254 Texas counties, 25% of Texans live in Hard to Count (HTC) communities or neighborhoods, regions or populations with historically low response rates during previous censuses, said Katie Lightfoot of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. “Kids under five, immigrants, people of color, families that move frequently, non-English speaking communities, low-income households, people in rural areas, renters, complex households – the list goes on and on,” Lightfoot said of HTC tract characteristics.

HTC communities are fairly ubiquitous in Texas. For example, the Vietnamese who rely on fishing or other economic activities linked to coastlines, often reside in rural areas more difficult for census-takers to canvas, noted Jannette Diep of Boat People SOS, and they are less likely to have access to computers or the Internet to avail themselves of the Census Bureau’s highly touted online census survey.

The number of HTC communities in Harris County is eye-opening. “Harris County has the highest number of Hard to Count people in the state of Texas,” Lightfoot explained. “That’s over one million people in Harris County who are hard to count.”

Changes in funding programs is just one result of an undercount. Population also determines reapportionment. If the census captures the state’s growth, experts project, Texas could add another two or three congressional seats to its delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives, Murray noted, and likely one more seat in the state legislature as well. And, there is redistricting, redrawing the boundaries of congressional districts so the numerical representation in each is roughly proportionate.

Panelists cited cross-cutting issues they think make this census particularly challenging and that could depress the response rate. Foremost, they said, has been negative reactions to the Department of Commerce Secretary’s attempt to include a census question on citizenship. Despite the 2019 judicial ruling that prohibited that action, participants across the ethnic groups they represented said “the damage has been done.”

A.J. Durani, of Emgage-USA, said President Trump’s remarks on his first presidential campaign trail and his subsequent actions since in office, particularly the Muslim travel ban, have had a chilling effect on his organization’s membership.

“These actions,” Durani stated, “have resulted in fear, apprehension, and trepidation among the Muslim community for any initiative of the current government, especially those whereby information or data are collected on individuals, that is, by the census.”

Durani said Emgage-USA, a multi-state organization, with chapters or a presence in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia, seeks to promote civic education and engagement. He noted that although approximately a quarter of the Muslims in the greater Houston area are non-immigrant African Americans, the majority are immigrants from Asia, including Bangladesh and Indonesia, the Middle East, North Africa, and other countries in Africa with predominantly Muslim populations, like Somalia and Sudan.

Throughout the convening, trust — or rather mistrust — was a pervasive theme and one not solely relegated to immigrant communities. Ray Shackleford, representing the Houston chapter of the National Urban League, and national president of the Urban League’s Young Professionals, said mistrust of government is prevalent within the city’s African American community as well.
“I think there is general mistrust when you’re talking about the government, and it’s a challenge because it’s something that’s well founded when you look at the history of government’s interaction with black people and, honestly, its communities of color overall.”

The speakers at the Census briefing in Houston. From left to right: Angelica Razo (Mi Familia Vota), Ebony Fleming (BakerRipley), Elizabeth Bille (NALEO), A.J. Durrani (Emgage USA), Nabila Mansoor (Empowering Communities Initiative), and Ray Shackelford (Houston Urban League). Photo credits: Anthony Advincula, Ethnic Media Services.

Shackleford, who has worked with Houston’s homeless population, outlined a scenario of a renter who has two people on the lease but shelters six in the apartment. “You don’t want to put that down on the census if you think it’s going to get into the hands of the landlord and they’re going to try to evict you.”

The lack of state funding to support census outreach was another issue raised at the convening. Shackleford said he recently attended a Houston meeting of professionals of Caribbean descent where he polled attendees informally on how much money they thought the Lone Star State had committed to outreach. Because of Texas pride, “they threw out big numbers,” Shackleford said, but were dumbfounded to learn the answer is zero.

In 2019, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wrote to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott requesting funds for census outreach. Past Texas governors invested in census public education, but Abbott has declined to do so. With less federal revenue committed to the 2020 census than many longtime census observers deem necessary for a truly successful count, Turner, as have some other big city Texas mayors, is spending city revenue to raise the visibility of the census.

One compelling narrative that overrides distrust, speakers agreed, is the high stakes for kids if they are undercounted. Approximately 105,000 Texas children were not counted in the last census, said Elizabeth Bille, Texas State Director for NALEO, “and 75,000 of those are Latinos. So you can imagine what is at stake for our community and all communities of color.”

Bille spoke of her concerns, not only as an advocate, but as a mother, knowing and watching young children being deprived of health or educational resources that could be readily available were the census count accurate and communities received the appropriate funding. She also echoed Emgage-USA’s A.J. Durani in advocating for robust cooperation between census advocates and the ethnic media as trusted messengers.

Angelica Razo, State Director for Mia Familia Vota, said everyone already knows why people are fearful but “we need to empower them and tell them why need to fill out the census.” Razo agreed that ethnic media as trusted messengers are vital to educating communities but said there is another imperative needing emphasis. “Put some ownership on community members, they too are trusted messengers.”

Hyunja Norman, director of the Korean Voters Association, brought to the meeting promotional material she had developed and financed in order to reach Korean Americans. She struck an emotional chord with attendees about what is driving her engagement with her community around the census. “I am participating in the census because I am part of this great nation. We are part of this nation. We contribute to this nation. Make your community exist in this country.”

Ebony Fleming, of the children’s service organization BakerRipley, summed up the shared sense of pride of place through the census: “In the space you’re in, you matter.

Khalil Abdullah is Contributing Editor for Ethnic Media Services. He joined New America Media as its first Director in the Washington D.C. He has also served as the Lead Facilitator and Editor of the Beat Within, Washington D.C. edition, and Managing Editor of the Washington Afro-American Newspaper.


Featured image can be found here and this piece 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.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on Census 2020: Which Race and Ethnic Card to Play? Census Identities Still Confound

Everyone in the United States plays a race or ethnic card some time, or at least everyone responding to the census. Despite the scientific view that race is an artificial social construct, unmoored from biological reality, is there a box that best describes you?
Whether you plan to respond to the census online, in writing, or by telephone, one question you’ll have to answer will be how you self-identify.
FAQ: What are the race and ethnic categories on the census form?
Answer: Your racial choices are: (1) White; (2) Black or African American; (3) American Indian or Alaskan Native; (4) Asian – with numerous boxes as subsets; and (5) Some other race. The questionnaire also asks, separately, if the respondent is “of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin,” but instructs that, “for this census, Hispanic origins are not races.”
FAQ: What if I’m not White or Black? I’m Egyptian and my neighbor is from Iran. What are our options and who determines the categories?
Answer: You and your neighbor fall into what is called the MENA classification: Middle Eastern and North African. There was a proposal to add MENA to the 2020 form, but the Office of Management and Budget, which makes the assigned identity group determinations about the census, decided to keep the same basic categories that were on the 2010 census form.
FAQ: So, if I’m MENA, what box best describes me?
Answer: That’s a personal choice. Many MENA residents, and others, end up checking “Some other race,” the third-largest race category after White and Black or African American.
FAQ: But I thought Hispanics and Latinos were now the second-largest racial group in the United States according to their population. So how do you get “Some other race” as the third-largest group?
Answer: As far as the census is concerned, Hispanics and Latinos are ethnic classifications not racial classifications. Some will check the “White” box and some will check the “Black” box or write in Afro Latino, for example, as an addition. Many will check the “Some other race” box. MENA respondents also frequently check the “Some other race” box as well. They don’t see themselves as Black or White, and in most cases, they are not of Hispanic or Latino origin.
FAQ: Have census categories changed over time?
Answer: Yes. Mulatto, octoroon or quadroon once were options on the census form to describe African Americans of mixed heritage. One estimate calculates that 500,000 of these individuals checked the “White” box on the 1920 form. In later years, public demand and pressure resulted in the OMB removing “Negro” as an option for American-born residents of African descent. The term still appeared on the 2010 decennial census, but on the 2020 form the choices are “Black” or “African American.”
FAQ: What if I was born here, but my parents are from Africa?
Answer: There is a lot of subjectivity involved in making these choices. For some, Black has come to mean anyone who is a descendant of the African diaspora, regardless of where they were born or live. One Somali man, a longtime resident and U.S. citizen, married an American woman who identified as Black. When asked how he describes his U.S.-born children, he said, “Well, now that I think about it, I guess they are African American.”
FAQ: What if I am of mixed heritage? My parents are African American, but I know some of their ancestors were from Europe. They were Irish, for example, Dutch or German. Other ancestors, we think, were Native American.
Answer: The questionnaire is set up so that you can “Mark one or more boxes AND print origins.” We know America has had a complicated history (https://tinyurl.com/EMS-FAQ), as more people are discovering through genomic testing. One adult census respondent recalls discouraging his mother, who identifies as Black, from checking every major race category box on the form.
FAQ: Why would it have mattered if she had? What difference does the box I check make or any information I may add?
Answer: For one, you have a better chance of “owning” who you are. Therefore, you are less likely to be misrepresented by a census employee who, without that information, would make a determination about your identity. So, in that sense, checking every box would be a more accurate contribution to understanding our country’s history. Individual census data is sealed for 72 years, but in the future your descendants or distant relatives will be able to look you up by name on the census form you respond to this year. In fact, the census is among the primary tools genealogists and researchers use to trace family histories. You might also reflect on that first constitutionally mandated census in 1790. To achieve a political compromise, those held in bondage were counted only as three-fifths of a person, and their names were not recorded on the census. Even as late as 1860, the last census before the Civil War, some owners reported the age and sex of their captives, but not their names.
FAQ: But how does filling out the census or not filling out the census affect my immediate financial or economic condition?
Answer: For practical purposes, as a measure of population, census data is used to determine how the federal and state governments allocate funds and resources, in addition to determining the number of seats states get in the U.S. House of Representatives. Data can be a double-edged sword. Some data are critical to attempts to address structural disparities among America’s peoples, but data also can be used as a guide to steer resources away from those deemed political adversaries. How and why data are used is an important conversation, but it’s a different conversation from whether it is in your interest to respond to the census. However, unless you are clear about who you are by identity, you may be grouped with a different race than your preference. That was why the individual discouraged his mother from checking every box. He wanted to make sure that if there were resources linked to her identity, those resources would be allocated to and benefit the community with which she primarily identified.
This article is a monthly column by Ethnic Media Services aimed to educate about the need to respond to the 2020 U. S. Census. 

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.

 

 

 

10 Minutes Will Impact 10 Years of Your Life

“Your ten minutes of participation will impact ten years of your life,” said Nick Kuwada, the Office of the Census, Santa Clara County in his keynote address.

At a Civic Forum organized on Jan 23, 2020 co-sponsored by India Currents and Ding Ding TV in Santa Clara, officers from the Office of the Census impressed upon the audience the importance of participation. The event was supported by Ethnic Media Services, VietPress USA, Mail Business Newspaper (the Wall Street Journal of South Korea), Lion Television Channel 16.10, North California, GlinkNews, Tan Phuong Media, Voice of Chinese America, and design2market.

The Keynote address was followed by a panel discussion on the importance of counting children in Census 2020. Historically children are undercounted, specially children under 5. The discussion was lead by Vandana Kumar, Publisher, India Currents magazine with a panel that included Monica Tong, Office of the Census and Andrew Ratermann, School board trustee for the Santa Clara Unified School District.

Important takeaways:

*The Census every 10 years takes a headcount of all people in the United States. ALL people have to be counted, not just old or young, rich or poor, English speakers or non-English speakers. Ten minutes of your time will impact ten years of your life.

*The Census has a record of getting 76% of the people to respond. If, in Census 2020, we record below this number then we will lose billions of dollars of funding. Additionally we are in danger of losing a Congressional seat. The US Census finds some counties, like Santa Clara County, hard to count.

*You need to take the Census because it is the law.

*You need to take the Census to get your fair share of funds. You pay taxes and you should get federal funding. Take your tax money back to make your schools and other institutions better.

*You need to take the Census because there are voices in Washington that are vested in not counting you and taking your money. They want you to be invisible.

*Where you are on April 1, 2020 is where funds earmarked for you will go. If you are from Cupertino but are a student at and live in Davis then you will count as part of Davis and funds for you will go there. Because people move around the census takes a snapshot count.

*Birth records and immigration records do not answer where the people are located.

Logistics to keep in mind:

The mailers for Census 2020 will be mailed out on March 1. Look out for the forms and when people knock on your door as census workers make sure you are talking to census workers and not fraudsters. If they ask for your Social Security Number don’t give them this information. Real census workers will not ask for such information.

It is the first digital census and can be taken online. Pincodes will be sent to by mail that identify your address. You can write the pincode instead of the address.

If you don’t have laptops or phones to fill the census form digitally you can fill it at any of the 120 earmarked locations like community house, library, school etc.

Ritu Marwah is an a senior writer with India Currents and an avid student of all things political.