2020 Census – Everyone Counts


The SC County Refugee and Immigrant Forum is making plans to support the 2020 Census by letting people know that EVERYBODY who is in the U.S. on April 1st should be counted.

There has been plenty of seemingly orchestrated confusion over the purpose, confidentiality, and use of the U.S. Census information that will be gathered in 2020. By federal law, Census information cannot be shared with any other agency or used for anything other than statistics and planning. The Federal Census Office has guaranteed the confidentiality of submitted information.

The number and demographics of participants will directly impact our level of representation in the state and federal legislatures and the re-drawing of political districts for elections. In other words, it will influence who will make the laws and control spending and for the next 10 years. In particular, the numbers will determine the allocation of federal funding for public programs such as housing, education, transportation, employment, health care and safety net services.

Every person living in the U.S. on April 1st¬†should be included, no matter where they came from, how they got here, or¬†their current immigration status, After a long legal battle, it was determined by the Supreme Court that a question asking about citizenship status will not be on the form. However, 480,000 “test‚ÄĚ Census forms were sent out across the country and half of them included the citizenship question. This will only add to the public‚Äôs confusion. The unfortunate timing and format of this ‚Äútest‚ÄĚ appears to be another conscious attempt to reduce the count of ethnic groups and non-citizens. People who are included in this early sampling may not understand that this is not the real Census form. Many may think they have completed the Census and spread mis-information that it includes the Citizenship question. They might not understand they still must complete it again in April in order to be counted in the actual Census.

Ethnic service providers, faith based organizations, and advocates can help by learning more about Census 2020, correcting misinformation, and encouraging their clients, members and friends to participate. Help can be requested from the San Jose City Census Office  and Santa Clara County Census Office  to answer questions, translate, or to fill out the forms. Staff from both offices will be happy to offer on-site presentations to address any any questions or issues.  People will also need to be warned about the scams that are sure to appear once the outreach gets underway. No one should ever be asked for bank account or credit card information, political affiliation, or to make a contribution for the census.

The United Way and Silicon Valley Community Foundation grant application periods are closed, but funding remains available for San Jose organizations that want to partner at some level with the Census effort. Email census2020@sanjoseca.gov to be notified when information is released. The Santa Clara County Census Office will also be offering funding for direct outreach. E-mail census@ceo.sccgov.org to indicate interest. There are still many temporary positions open for individual job seekers. (Spanish link)

Funding for the 2020 Census has been capped at the level of the 2010 Census (which was assessed to be at least 10% underfunded at the time). This was justified in part by the untested assumption that the ratio of internet responses will increase, thus reducing the need for in-person follow-up. (Those who do not respond to mail or internet outreach will be contacted by telephone or home visit.) Even if there is an increase in on-line participation, it will not be the same across all populations. Vulnerable populations such as elderly, low income, disabled, and limited English speaking are less likely to respond on-line. This is one more factor that will potentially contribute to an undercount of those most in need of funding for services.

Internet Self-Response and Census Questionnaire Assistance, will be available in 12 non-English languages, spoken by at least 60,000 limited-English-speaking households. In descending order, these include Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese.

The Census Bureau will also provide language guides, language glossaries, and a language identification card in 59 languages that were determined to have at least 2,000 speakers nationwide (including: Spanish, Haitian, Creole, Bengali, Romanian, Tamil, Tigrinya, Igbo, Chinese, Portuguese, Greek, Telugu, Navajo, Ilocano, Marathi, Vietnamese, Japanese, Amharic, Burmese, Hungarian, Dutch, Sinhala, Korean, Italian, Somali, Punjabi, Hebrew, Croatian, Slovak, Russian, Farsi, Thai, Lao, Malayalam, Bulgarian, American Sign Language, Arabic, German, Gjurati, Hmong, Swahili, Twi, Tagalog, Armenian, Khmer, Albanian, Yiddish, Lithuanian, Polish, Hindi, Nepali, Turkish, Indonesia, Yoruba, French, Ukrainian, Urdu, Bosnian Serbian and Czech).

Community and Faith Based Organizations, as well as ethnic clubs and social groups with members or clients needing assistance in these languages can request assistance from the San Jose City Census Office or the SCC Census Office.

Why should service providers support the 2020 Census effort?
It is estimated that each person who doesn’t participate will cost Santa Clara County $2,000 in funding each year for 10 years ($20,000 total per non-participant during this cycle). This includes children and babies (estimated undercount of 5% in 2010).

There has been a well-documented long term, coordinated campaign of fear directed at the non-citizen communities. It is understandable that under these conditions, people are reluctant to call any attention to themselves. Some of us might feel it would be insensitive to increase their anxiety by inviting people to share their personal information. Pressuring people to override well-founded concerns will not likely achieve a positive outcome. It could cause immigrant and refugee communities to feel even more isolated and misunderstood. However, conversations can still be invited, while acknowledging and respecting the justified reluctance. People might want to understand the full impact of the choice they are making.

If the Head of Household for a family of 4 decides not to participate in the Census because¬†it is ‚Äúbetter safe than sorry,‚ÄĚ it will cost the community an estimated¬†$80,000 in lost federal funding for services. A¬†recent study by the Urban Institute¬†projects an overall average¬†undercount of between -0.98% (-380,000 people) and -1.98% (-792,000 people) for California.¬† This translates into an annual funding loss of between $762,000 and¬†$1,584,000 every year¬†for 10 years.¬†¬†Broken down into ethnic groups, the numbers are even more dramatic,¬†¬†For instance, the projected undercount for the Latinx population is between -2.18% and¬†-3.65%.

Because of the uniquely high ratio of foreign born in SCC, our undercount ratio is likely to be higher than other counties. Transferring the CA estimates to the 2017 Census numbers for Santa Clara County, a 3.65% undercount for the Latinx population alone would result in an annual funding loss (rounded) of over $36,000,000.

Many undocumented¬†immigrants have been here for years and have previously shared personal information to get medical care, cash a check, enroll a child in school,¬†apply for a driver’s license, etc.¬†While there may be additional concerns for mixed status households, for many, participation in the Census should not feel like an additional risk.¬† They may not be aware that their non-participation¬†will result in a reduction of services and¬†benefits for their families and community.

None of us are in a position to judge the choice that another person makes in such a difficult situation, but the stakes are high and people should have the necessary information to make an informed decision.Community leaders, service providers, advocates, and others who have already developed trusted relationships within ethnic communities, will be in the best position to address mis-information and clarify the impact of non-participation. It is in the best interest of these individuals and organizations, to have a proper understanding of the risks and benefits (for the entire community), associated with achieving an accurate Census count. The ideal of democracy is based on representation. All of our voices are weakened when any segment of the population is silenced.

Immigrantinfo.org will continue to post updates on opportunities, funding and events as they become available.


U.S. Census Office Official Page inviting Community Partners

Santa Clara County Census Office

San Jose City Census Office (408) 535-5602

NPR Article –¬†2020 Census Could Lead To Worst Undercount Of Black, Latinx People In 30 Years

NPR Article –¬†What You Need To Know About The 2020 Census