Next year, there will be a count of the country’s population. The 2010 Census is a big deal. It gives the most accurate tally of individuals that live in this country. It is through the Census that the government is able to plan its services, distribute Congressional seats, and decide on funding that will flow through to state, local, and tribal governments.
Immigration advocates have been urging the government to make the Census as family and community friendly as possible. That includes translating the questions into multiple languages and beefing up public and community outreach for hard-to-reach communities.
Some communities, like black and immigrant communities, have traditionally been undercounted in the Census. We encourage these, and all, communities to be involved in the Census count.
As Father Allen Deck, Jesuit priest with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, points out:
“This is how our country makes decisions about allocation of resources and local representation, regardless of race or immigration status. Your participation is vital to insure that your community gets its fair share of federal funds for schools, roads, parks and other services.”
While there have been some discussions and attempts to exclude immigrants from the Census or to use the Census to reveal immigration status, most of these efforts have been shunned, by immigration advocates and several government agencies. The Census should not be used as an intelligence gathering tool to round up hardworking individuals that are undocumented. Doing so would compromise not only the participation of the undocumented, but also members of their families and communities who do have legal status in this country. We are encouraged that so far the Census Bureau has rejected these suggestions.
In our push for immigration reform, we should not ignore small opportunities to help our communities make their presence known and improve services to them. The Census is such an opportunity. There is a lot of local funding at stake. Let us encourage all of our neighbors to participate and continue to urge the Census Bureau to stay focused on its main purpose: collecting important data for planning our country’s future.
Melissa Williams is the Public Affairs Officer for CLINIC.