NYC Campaign to Ease Census Fears among Immigrants

Community meeting in Brooklyn addressing the census. (Photo via El Diario)

The 2020 Census will be carried out in the U.S. exactly one year from April 1, and community leaders, activists and politicians in the Big Apple are already campaigning relentlessly to guarantee that everyone in the five boroughs is counted this time.

As part of the New York Counts campaign, members of immigrant organizations, City Council members and representatives from the de Blasio administration held a “day of action” at more than 50 locations on Monday to educate people about the importance of registering for the census. (…)

One of the main goals of the campaign is to guarantee that people know there is nothing to fear in being counted, regardless of immigration status.

(…) “At the White House, they have a policy that aims to deprive us of our voice as Latinos, as immigrants,” said Carlos Menchaca, chair of the City Council Committee on Immigration. “What we can do is organize against these attacks and register to be counted in the census, which has to do with the resources that come from the federal government for new schools, health services and other important things we need.” (…)

Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, reiterated that there are sufficient protections in place and that people should not be afraid of being counted. He added that failing to participate in the count has a negative effect on immigrant communities.

“For every person in New York who is not counted, we are losing $3,000 in our communities, and that money can go towards Medicaid, better schools, better roads, health and transportation. It is important for people to know that their information is protected and confidential. Also, you do not need to say your name,” said the activist.

“(…) if we are counted, we can really know how many of us there are and they will give us more resources,” said Dominican immigrant Abel Abreu, who has lived in New York for more than 30 years. “For instance, here in Brooklyn it can help us ease the problems we have with housing and schools a little.”

Still, not everyone is aware of the census. Outside of the Brooklyn venue where the community event was held, Mexican immigrant Juan González said he does not know what the census is.

“I don’t have a clue what that is or what it is for,” he said, adding that it would be good for communities to receive information on the topic.

For her part, Lovely Tejada said that the census could transform the political map, increasing representation.

“That data can help us have more representatives who can speak for us, who will pass laws to benefit our people and who are on the people’s side. Everyone, regardless of their religion or demographics, needs to get involved. With more resources, we can have better education, health and transportation options,” said the 28-year-old woman, who wants to pursue a master’s in public policy.

Political analyst and community activist Lucía Gómez called on people to leave fear aside and take part in the census. “(…) Our schools are overcrowded. The census finds where there is need for new schools, new affordable housing and other things, and Hispanics are the least accurately counted community. There are areas in Corona and Jackson Heights where children are taking classes inside trailers because there has not been a real count.”

In its coverage of the New York Counts coalition and campaign, Gotham Gazette reports that the New York State budget, approved early Monday by Gov. Cuomo and the state Legislature, included $20 million for census outreach, half the amount called for by the coalition, and Bklyner notes, “less than half the amount a decade ago.”

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