The states involved in the program are: Illinois, Michigan,
Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North
Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. Similar efforts are planned
for other U.S. regions later this year.
The census, which is mandated by the U.S. Constitution every ten
years, asks questions about race, age, gender, and the number of
people living in each household. It is used to decide how
hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds are distributed
and how congressional districts are drawn.
Still, challenges exist in reaching out to Latinos, Alfonso
said. Some immigrants and organizations are wary of providing
detailed personal information to the government because they
fear doing so could lead to inquiries on immigration status for
themselves or family members.
The far-right has also used the Census numbers for “immigrant
``The Census Bureau is sending out messages, but it's still a
government organization and you have people who are distrustful
of it,'' Alfonso said.
Note, however, that the Census does not ask about immigration
status or citizenship.
In its campaign, MALDEF is stressing the confidentiality of the
data and encouraging people to mail back completed forms early.
Their slogan for the effort is ``Hagase Contar,'' or
``Make Yourself Count.''
bright yellow flier from the group reads, ``by law, the Census
Bureau cannot share your answers with anyone, including federal,
state and local agencies. This includes immigration agencies.''
The group is focusing its efforts on suburbs where there has
been a surge in the number of Latinos, and is working with
community groups that include immigrant rights coalitions,
health organizations, and gay rights groups, since married
same-sex couples will be counted in the 2010 Census.
Immigrants rights groups and the Government Accountability
Office have said the Census needs to do better at counting
Census officials insist they're making efforts. For the first
time with the 2010 Census, the agency is sending out Spanish
questionnaires to about 13 million households.
In Toledo, Ohio, Margarita De León is a Latina liaison
for the U.S. Census. According to De León,
“As a partnership specialist in
Northwest Ohio, I can’t stress enough the importance of
making sure that every resident gets counted. This is not about
citizenship, this is about residency.” said De León; “I have
been and will continue to work with
migrant worker agencies to build trust with this
community so that the entire Latino community is represented in
the census count.”
Rico de La Prensa contributed to this support.
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