Tag Archives: MARK HEDIN

Final Census Tally May Leave Kids Out

The 2020 census, now in its second month of collecting data, is on track to be “one of the most incomplete in history,” according to UCLA researcher and advisor to the U.S. Census Bureau Paul Ong.

In keeping with past collections, kids younger than 5, people of color, and households that include immigrants, are impoverished or lack English-language skills are the most likely to be uncounted in the census tally, a reality that will affect government spending priorities for the next decade,

The nationwide household response rate for the past month has been at least 11% behind its 2010 census rate (https://tinyurl.com/UCLACensusStudy), Ong says. In that census, considered the most accurate yet and with a 74% response rate, the population most left out — officially 2 million — was kids younger than 5.

Being counted in the census benefits individuals and their communities. In general, for every person of any age, being counted in the census is worth an extra couple of thousand dollars of government funds for hundreds of programs, including many that target kids’ well-being by boosting their education, nutrition, housing and more. Since 2010, the uncounted children’s needs have been left out of funding decisions.

Almost 16.5 million kids younger than 5 live in the United States now. The Washington, D.C.-based Population Research Bureau (PRB) recently estimated that up to 25% of them — 4.065 million — live where there’s a “very high risk” that their household will not complete the nine-question census form. And another 9.29 million are at “high risk” of not being counted.

In those very high risk regions, as of early May, the household census response rate was 48.6%, while the overall national rate was 54.6%. Households of all sizes, rather than individuals, comprise the basic unit of census responses.

Kids deemed at very high risk of not being counted live in poverty; among adults 18-34 with low educational attainment; in households either led by women with no spouse present or only with grandparents; in households with limited English-language skills; in immigrant families or in families that are renters.

The PRB study (https://tinyurl.com/PRBstudy) found that these conditions varied by ethnicity. Among African Americans, for example, 48% of kids younger than 5 are considered at very high risk of not being counted. For Latinos, it’s 38%, and for American Indian/Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders it’s 31%.

The very high risk rate for Asian Americans kids 0-5 is 28%. It’s 22% for those identifying as being of two or more ethnicities, and for non-Hispanic whites it’s 9%.

The PRB study also offers some new tools to identify where this year’s potentially uncounted children live, the better to ensure their inclusion in the census count.

Of the nation’s more than 3,000 counties, 689 were home to 93% of 2010’s uncounted kids, the researchers found. From there, the study highlighted the census tracts — typically about 4,000 people each — within several major U.S. urban areas to show where kids are most likely at very high risk of being overlooked.

In Miami-Dade County, 84% of its kids younger than 5 were in that category. In Philadelphia the percentage was 64%. New York was 57%, Washington, D.C., 53%, and Harris County, Texas (Houston), and Cook County, Illinois (Chicago), both 40%. Wayne County, Michigan was 39%.

Linked to the PBR study were interactive maps drawn by the City University of New York’s Center for Urban Research with detailed descriptions of each census tract, nationwide, and a link to a downloadable Excel spreadsheet.

The descriptions, including estimates of how many kids live in the census tracts and under what circumstances, are largely based on information in the American Community Survey (ACS), which the Census Bureau gathers in between the decennial censuses, and other non-decennial Census Bureau studies. They offer more details about people’s circumstances but don’t attempt to count everybody.

Another resource is CUNY’s “Hard to Count” maps(https://tinyurl.com/CUNYsHTCmap) that have tracked census response rates and challenges since the data-gathering process began in mid-March.

Because the ACS and other non-decennial surveys extrapolate from samples, the resulting data isn’t used in the important decisions based on the decennial census, such as how many seats each state has in Congress or how $1.5 trillion of federal funds are spent every year.

If you want you or your kids to be included in those plans for the 2020s, it’s time to make sure you and your community are counted. The next chance will be in 2030.

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Keeping Track of 2020 Census

In June last year, the Supreme Court ended the Trump administration’s plan to ask all 2020 Census respondents about their citizenship status.  

But with the first month of census-taking almost complete, it’s clear that the court ruling hasn’t undone the damage caused by even proposing the question be added.

Although the Census Bureau has not yet analyzed 2020’s ethnicity response rates, research two weeks in (https://tinyurl.com/CUNYstudyWeek2), when the national response rate was in the low 40% range, found predominantly Hispanic census tracts were at 30.5%, the lowest of population groups studied. Predominantly African American tracts were at 35%, Asian American-dominated tracts at 41%, and predominantly non-Hispanic white tracts 42.5%.

In an April 20 discussion, “The Fight for a Fair Count: Keeping the 2020 Census on Track,” attorney Thomas Wolf of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program cited December findings by the Urban Institute (https://tinyurl.com/UrbanInstituteCensusReport) that almost 70% of adult respondents still believed the nine-question 2020 Census form(https://tinyurl.com/QuestionsOn2020Census) would include one about citizenship.

And almost as many expected it “somewhat, extremely or very likely” that authorities would use answers to find people living in the United States without documentation. 

The Brennan Center for Justice event also included Janai Nelson from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Adriel Derieux of the ACLU Voting Rights Project.

The once-every-10-years census controls more than $1.5 trillion of annual federal spending (https://tinyurl.com/CensusDataSpendingReport) and determines people’s voice in government. It does NOT include a question about citizenship or allow police, border or immigration officials, or any other government agencies to use anyone’s personal information from the census.

“That’s a nonexistent threat,” Nelson said. “The larger risk is from not being counted.”

Wolf also cited the report’s findings on how likely people are to fill out the census questionnaire. In 2010, the response rate was 72%. For this census, a majority (77.2%) said they likely would respond, and among those age 50-64, it was 86.9%.

But for those 18-34, it was 67.3%, even worse than the 69.1% of households that include a noncitizen, in which 12% said they definitely or probably would avoid being counted.

Among white non-Hispanics, 81.5% said they were likely to respond. The percentage among those identifying as Hispanic was 71%, among black non-Hispanics 73.3%, and for other races, or those of multiple non-Hispanic ethnicities, 65.6%.

The nation as a whole has now passed the 50% response rate (https://tinyurl.com/CensusBureauReport). That’s about 10% behind where it was at this point in 2010, so the Census Bureau is at least on board to attain what it once deemed its “worst-case scenario” in terms of a low response rate, Wolf said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit 2020 Census plans hard. Plans to reach so-called “hard-to-count” communities have been delayed or altered, and the Census Bureau is also seeking extra time to compile data for use in redrawing political boundaries and reapportioning seats in Congress.

The original deadline for being counted was July 31, but households now have until Oct. 31 to respond online, over the phone, by the traditional method of mailing back a questionnaire, or via an “enumerator” sent to visit those who haven’t responded.

The Census Bureau has also delayed training and deploying the hundreds of thousands of people to whom it offered enumerator jobs. Also, in early March, it suspended after just four days its “Update/Leave” program sending staff to check addresses and leave questionnaires where people are particularly hard to reach, for instance, in tribal lands, or where people rely on Post Office boxes or are dealing with a natural disaster, such as Puerto Rico. 

Data the Census Bureau puts together from answered questionnaires determines the need for more than 300 programs that help educate, feed, house, provide infrastructure — and emergency services — for U.S. communities for the next 10 years.

Anonymous census data also is used to redefine a community, city, county or state’s political boundaries. Different states have different procedures on how they go about redistricting. Reapportionment, though, uses census data to decide how many members of Congress each state gets —  and the number of electoral college votes in presidential elections. 

Each House seat is supposed to represent the same number of people. Currently it is set at 750,000 per seat. After each state gets its one guaranteed House seat, the remaining 385 seats are divided according to population. States the census finds have growing populations gain representatives. States where fewer people are counted will lose seats.

So if people aren’t counted, their communities don’t get a full voice in political discussions.

By 2045, Nelson of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said the United States is expected to no longer be majority white, but “the popular vote is not reflected in our politics or our representation. All that — political representation — relies on census counts.” 

“Encouraging online response is important,” she said. “It’s the same as encouraging voter registration. We need to make sure our friends and family understand. Go into your phones, contact lists, send texts. … Do everything we can to encourage participation while staying safe.”

The census, said ACLU Voting Rights Project’s Derieux, “is the stuff democracy is made of. It can determine what our country looks like. It should reflect the growing diversity of our country.”

“Everyone counts,” Wolf said in conclusion. “When you’re able to stand up and be counted, you have an opportunity to make government the way it should be.”

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.

Pacific Islanders Promote Their Own Identity

Despite mounting worries over the COVID-19 pandemic, more than a dozen Pacific Islander activists and media representatives gathered in San Mateo March 14 to anchor an online conference about the 2020 census and their collective stake in an accurate count.

They were joined online and over the airwaves by almost a hundred more people — various voices from the “Coconut Wireless” – who watched, listened and added their own perspectives.  The online conference was hosted by Ethnic Media Services with the support of the California Complete Count Office 2020 census.

“They [government officials] need to see us. We pay our taxes, we pay our dues,” said Nackie Moli, who runs the podcast Poly by Design. Identifying herself as a “proud Samoan woman,” she said she was excited to promote the census in her work with Island Block Radio, heard, she said, from Alaska to Mexico. “We all need to be counted.”

Census data permeates U.S. society. According to one expert, it directs $1.5 trillion in annual  federal spending (https://tinyurl.com/Census-drivenSpending) on health care, education and development, and more, in hundreds of government programs and projects.

Addressing the role of census data in supporting education, Manuafou Liaiga Anoa’i, of the Jefferson School District Board of Trustees in San Mateo,  said: “Empowering others — that’s census. Education in a classroom? That has to be funded. We have to continue to give our future generations more resources.

“We are an invisible community, but we don’t have that poverty mind-set. We continue to be warriors.”

Speaker after speaker addressed the battle to  distinguish Pacific Islander identity and “disaggregating” it from its current place as a subset of the Asian American population in the census.

The Pacific Islander community is highly diverse, but for most of its history, there have been few ways to specify origins on the census: Someone who identifies as “Asian or Pacific Islander” could also check boxes for Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Asian Indian, Hawaiian, Samoan, Guamanian  or “Other API.” “Other API” offered a write-in box for more detail – Tongan, perhaps, or Fijian, or something else.

In 2000, “or Chamorro” was added to the Guamanian choice, and for the first time, “Other Pacific Islander” appeared as a separate write-in box alternative to “Other Asian.”

According to the 2010 Census, the total U.S. Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population was 1.2 million, more than half living either in Hawaii or California. By 2018, that number had grown to 1.4 million, still largely in Hawaii and California, according to estimates presented by Alisi Tulua, of One East Palo Alto and OCPICA.

With a fast-growing influx in populations from Micronesia, the Caroline Islands and other equatorial climes, the United States is seeing some of the first refugees of climate change and sea rise.

“The migration is inevitable,”said Epi Aumavae, of Samoan Solutions. “When you have nowhere to live, you have to move. That’s the reality.”

And it’s all the more reason for communities to be sure they’re included in the census this year, she said, because those communities will continue to grow and need resources. The numbers counted this year will be the basis for the next decade of government apportionments.

“Climate refugees are going to gravitate to where their communities already are. Those populations are going to increase because people will have nowhere else to go,” Aumavae said.

Finau Tovio, of the College of San Mateo’s MANA program, added, “Our Tonga is our churches, community leaders, ancestors.”

Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the number of people checking Guamanian or Chamorro increased 60%, Samoan grew 38%, and Native Hawaiian 31%, Tulua said. Also, people who checked “Other Pacific Island” and wrote in “Tongan” increased 55% and “Tahitian” write-ins increased 53%.

Other Oceanic populations demonstrated even more dramatic growth: Chuukese were up 544%, Solomon Islanders 388%, Kosraeen 301%, Marshallese, 237%, Carolinian 201%, Pohnpeian, 194%, Mariana Islander 177%, Yapese 177%, Fijian 138%, I-Kiribati 129%, Saipanese 117%, Palauan 115%, Papua New Guinean 86%, Tokelauan, 61%.

“We see the truth in climate change. East Palo Alto is, in majority, on a flood plain,” pointed out East Palo Alto native and College of San Mateo student Shaana Uhilamoelangi. “We’re seeing a big influx from the South Pacific.”

“It’s so important to be heard and fairly represented,” said Sonya Logman, chief of staff of the California Complete Count Census 2020 office in her opening remarks at the online conference.   The state government dedicated $187.2 million toward ensuring a complete count of its people. “We’re in a league of our own,” she said.

To reinforce that message, Aumavae urged meeting participants and listeners: “Make phone calls with your families, have conversations with relatives, because we’re not going to be able to do it face to face. Please, write your island in so it tells this administration and whoever’s next that we’re here.”

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

This article was originally published here.

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.


Save 2020 Census

By Mark Hedin, Ethnic Media Services. 

The best response to White House efforts to disenfranchise ethnic communities is for them to stand up and be counted in the upcoming 2020 census, a wide spectrum of experts and civil rights advocates agrees.

It’s a simple strategy to counteract myriad steps the Trump administration has taken to subvert an accurate count of everybody in the country – a count mandated by the constitution every 10 years through the decennial census.

“This is one of the most significant civil rights issues facing us today,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in a media telebriefing on April 5 hosted by major civil rights groups.

Data from the decennial count determine everything from how many congressional representatives a state gets to how much money the government allocates for schools, hospitals and transportation needs – and much more.

“Communities of color are at risk of being undercounted and left behind,” Gupta said. “The stakes are too high to remain on the sidelines.”

Cuts in funding have already disrupted efforts to improve the accuracy of the data collection.  As things stand now, Gupta said, the agency will face a shortfall of $933.5 million from what it needs to keep 2020 preparations on track.

Amplifying concerns, on March 26  Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the addition of a new question about respondent’s citizenship status, despite opposition from six former Census Bureau officials, two former Commerce Secretaries and experts in the field.

The timing of Ross’ proposed question is unprecedented. It comes too late to allow the Census Bureau to conduct the careful testing it typically performs prior to making such significant changes.

“We know that adding this question on citizenship status will cause participation in the census to plummet,” Gupta said.  She called the decision “deeply flawed…a failure of leadership and a capitulation to President Trump’s nativist agenda.”

“This is a tactic to scare people away from participation in the census,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of NALEO, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund.  “The purpose is very clear: the administration does not want Latinos to be counted.”

Vargas noted that Latinos, at almost 58 million, are the nation’s second largest population group – almost 18 percent of the total population.

“Already we had expressed our concerns about what an online census would mean to the ability of all people to be counted,” he said, referring to the 2020 census’ reliance on digital participation.  Most at risk for an undercount are very young children. In 2010, an estimated 1 million very young children went uncounted, of whom 400,000 were Latino.

Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, called the changes “a thinly veiled, back-door effort to suppress” the representation of non-white Americans in official consideration.  “The prospect of an epic undercount of African Americans and all people of color in the 2020 Census is becoming more of a reality each day.”

The African American community has always been undercounted, Morial noted, starting with the 1790 Census when slaves were considered three-fifths of a person.  In 2010, African Americans were undercounted by more than 2 percent, and African American children by 6.5 percent. By contrast, whites were overcounted – by 1 percent in 2000 and again by 1 percent in 2010.

Morial also noted that last month’s decision to continue what he called a “prison based gerrymandering” policy – counting prisoners where they are incarcerated rather than where they come from – will further ensure a geographic miscount.

“I have no doubt that had it been left to Census Bureau professionals, that decision would have been reversed. But when the administration came in, politics prevailed.”

John Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, pointed out that decisions to cut the number of census workers and offices by 50 percent will undermine outreach to the very communities the census has struggled to reach in the past, and trim the followup efforts to reach those who don’t respond to the initial survey.

Asian Americans were identified by the 2010 census as the fastest growing ethnic group in the nation, increasing by 46 percent since 2000, Yang said.  Some 80 percent of Asian Americans either immigrants or children of immigrants, putting them at high risk for an undercount.

Pointing to widespread fears among immigrant communities of exposing vulnerable family information, Yang emphasized that the Census bureau has the most stringent confidentiality rules of any government agency.  Even that, he warned, may not be enough to ensure participation in today’s charged political climate. Responding to a reporter’s question, he agreed that the confidentiality protocols were adopted following revelations that the census during World War II helped identify Japanese Americans for internment.

“How do we explain that the best way to fight back, the best way to have a voice in policy discourse, is to be counted,” NALEO’s Vargas challenged.  Noting that “there is a great amount of fear in Latino communities and in immigrant communities across the country,” Vargas said the advocates’ task now is to turn that fear into empowerment.   “We will not cower in fear and not be counted…we will be the ones to defend American democracy.”

“The fight to save the census is not over, by any stretch,” Gupta said. She cited lawsuits already filed by the state of California against Ross’ proposed citizenship question, another by a group of states led by New York, and efforts by the Conference of for oversight hearings followed by legislation in Congress.

“Together we can make sure the Census is fully funded and the decision to add the question on citizenship is overturned,” she said.

 Mark Hedin is a reporter with the San Francisco Study Center