Count On Your Census

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Asian Americans Advancing Justice created Count on Your Census to promote a robust response to our nation’s Decennial Census. Each census response is a piece of a puzzle that, when completed, creates a picture of who we are as Americans, and how best the country’s resources can be shared. It determines how the federal government funds and responds to the specific needs of your family and neighbors like money for schools, hospitals, roads, and community centers. It determines how many seats a state has in the House of Representatives and, as a result, how your community’s voice is heard by policymakers in Congress.

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Civil Rights vs. Fake News: Denise Hulett, MALDEF, and John C. Yang, Advancing Justice | AAJC. When Wilbur Ross, Department of Commerce Secretary, attempted to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 Census, it made headlines and fueled fears. Given the administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies it was clear that the question would discourage participation in the constitutionally mandated census. AAPI and Latinx civil rights leaders stood up and pushed back in 2 federal court cases and the Supreme Court. In all cases, the courts ruled against the administration’s position. In a last-ditch effort to save face, the President made a Rose Garden announcement about gathering citizenship status information from existing federal resources. It was a decisive victory for the immigrant community but is it enough to overcome the community’s fears?

Is the Census Safe?: Terry Ao Minnis, AAJC, and Samer Khalaf, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, explain how census data is used and protected by the Census Bureau. In communities of color, many people, undocumented immigrants, in particular, fear participation in Census 2020. They had heard that a citizenship question was on the census and then heard it would not be included. How can they be sure of what it true? And if they do fill out the census, will their personal data be safe? Which federal agencies have access to their information and how can it be used? These very legitimate concerns are answered by leaders in the movement for a fair and just census. And Mrs. Minnis and Mr. Khalaf provide a window into the real-life experiences that make these fears resonate across communities.

Follow the Money: Terri Ann Lowenthal, The Census Project, and Andrew Reamer, George Washington University Research Professor, lay out what can happen when communities are undercounted, and census data is incomplete. All across the country, a movement is organizing to Get Out the Count. Community groups, national nonprofits, business leaders, mayors and governors are asking all of us to fill out the Census and encourage our neighbors to do the same. They are organizing around a unified message. Census data determine how federal dollars are allocated to resources we rely upon every day: roads, schools, housing assistance, hospitals, drinking water and more. And census data also determines political seats and representation in Congress, and by extension, the power and influence a community can wield.

Tackling the Undercount: When the Trump Administration tried to add a citizenship question to the census, the intention was clear. Asking about citizenship status was designed to have a chilling effect on participation, particularly in immigrant communities. But the problem of a census undercount is both historic and well-documented. And the concern about its impacts is shared by the US Census Bureau, academic researchers, and civil rights organizations. In this episode, we talk to Cara Brumfield, senior policy analyst for the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, Economic Security, and Opportunity Initiative and Jackson Brossy, executive director, Native CDFI Coalition, both leaders in the movement to tackle the undercount head-on and hear their strategies for generating a robust response. From the logistical nightmare of Census enumerators finding households without addresses to the challenge of persuading reluctant undocumented immigrants to be counted, this is the undercount story.

Representation Matters: Data from the US Census determines how billions of federal dollars are deployed to communities for investment in schools, hospitals, housing assistance, water, transportation and other critical needs. Census data also determines how state legislative district lines are drawn and how political representation is allocated among states. In other words, an accurate count in the Census leads to political power. And an inaccurate count will diminish the voice and political clout of undercounted populations. In this episode, we hear from experts Jonathan Stein, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – ALC; Celina Stewart, League of Women Voters; and Kathay Feng, Common Cause; who have first-hand redistricting experience and explore the strategies and messaging that are resonating with local organizations to promote full participation in the 2020 Census.

Organizing the Organizers: Gustavo Torres, Executive Director for CASA, Catherine Beane from the YWCA, and Steve Choi from the New York Immigration Coalition lead this podcast that discusses organizing around the census, the resources, and partnerships that are energizing their efforts. Achieving a complete count in the 2020 Census comes down to rigorous organizing at the ground level. In communities that have been historically undercounted, and fear participation now, the stakes are highest. It takes trusted messengers, primarily community groups with a track record of providing services and building relationships, to mobilize residents to participate in the census process. Across the nation, such organizations are ramping up campaigns designed to overcome fear and apathy. In this episode, we hear from leaders who are committed to a full count, get a glimpse inside those campaigns and hear about their engagement strategies.

Census Communications in a Digital Divide: The decennial Census is a massive and complex operation, but Census 2020 poses profound new challenges. From the moment that President Trump tried to impose a citizenship question on the form, the Census became highly weaponized. As a result, targeted communities are afraid to participate in the census, requiring a communication and organizing strategy that is nuanced and sophisticated. To add to this challenge, Census 2020 is our nation’s first primarily digital census, seen as modernization by some and a barrier to participation by others. Over 20 million people lack reliable digital access, making online responses to the census unavailable to many in Indian Country, rural America and underserved urban districts. In this episode, Lizette Escobedo breaks down communications strategies designed to address and overcome these challenges, particularly in immigrant communities. And Francella Ochillo identifies new resources and partnerships, with libraries and local public officials, that are making participation possible in disconnected communities.

Getting the Word Out: Mobilizing Trusted Messengers: As Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, explains, the politicization of Census 2020 has made it the most complex enumeration of our American experience. Presidentially imposed barriers to participation in the census by all people in the United States, as constitutionally mandated, has generated high levels of engagement by faith, corporate, public sector, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders in using their clout and resources to ensure a robust count. They are collaborating on organizing and communication strategies, including the development and testing of messages that resonate with the vulnerable communities they represent. These messages are key to overcoming the fear of participation. While message development is vital, it takes, as Vanita observes, trusted messengers to effectively deliver them. At this stage, trusted messengers are rolling out campaigns at the neighborhood level. Whether they are church leaders, librarians, social service providers or community organizers, family members or friends, these are the influencers that we all need to value and support. Vanita hopes that the media will follow these trusted messengers, tell their stories, and deepen our collective understanding of why the census is so important to all of us. 

From Marginalization to Mobilization: The road to Census 2020 is marked by rhetoric and policies from the Trump administration that demonized and marginalized immigrants and people of color well before the President tried to add a citizenship question to the census form. In this episode of Count of Your Census, John C. Yang of Advancing Justice - AAJC and Ana Ndumu look back at the implications of this anti-immigrant environment for the 2020 Census and look ahead to the partnership this climate has fostered and to their potential for civil and immigrant rights advocacy. Ana speaks to two noteworthy examples of progress made during these challenging times: new support for Black Diasporic immigrants and a deep commitment by our public library system to making census participation possible for those without digital access. Mr. Yang points to the diverse field of national and local nonprofits and other sectors in supporting a robust census count as another meaningful consequence of a uniquely challenging time.

Season 2

Our U.S. Census Bureau: Mission DemocracyHow does the U.S. Census Bureau tackle its mission, the count of all persons in our nation? John Thompson, former director of the U.S. Census Bureau says it starts with a shared framework built on ethics. Part of those ethics is ensuring that our data is held in the greatest confidence by Bureau staff. The Census Bureau is a hub for a large number of statistical data used for everything from reporting unemployment numbers to the census data that is key to supporting our democracy.