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ID Immigrant Groups Face Barriers to Accurate Census Count

The 2020 census can be filled out online this year. (dennizn/Adobe Stock)
The 2020 census can be filled out online this year. (dennizn/Adobe Stock)
March 25, 2020

BOISE, Idaho -- Amid a global pandemic, the once-a-decade census of Americans goes on, and there's a focus on ensuring that young children are counted this year. In the 2010 census, 2 million kids from birth to age 5 were missed nationwide.

Barriers are even higher for immigrant families. Antonio Hernandez, who chairs the Idaho group Contamos, which is educating Idaho's Latinx population on the importance of filling out the census form, said this community makes up 13% of the state's population and is a driving engine behind Idaho's rapid growth -- but families need bilingual census information.

"If parents aren't able to get information that not only is in the language that they need it but also doesn't meet them where they're at, it's going to be hard to communicate anything of importance of the census," he said, "and that's really who we're relying on is heads of households, to count everybody in their families."

ernandez said the census provides integral numbers that drive federal funding for programs such as Head Start and school nutrition. The census form takes about 10 minutes to fill out and can be done by phone or online at 2020census.gov.

Deborah Stein, network director for the Partnership for America's Children, cited fears that immigrant families won't complete the form -- but the point of the census is to count everyone residing in the country.

"There will not be a citizenship question on the survey," she said. "You don't have to identify people's citizenship or immigration status. But we are still very concerned that we'll miss a lot of immigrant children."

Sarah Brannon, managing attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project, said folks' information is secure, noting that Census Bureau employees take a pledge and face stiff penalties if they violate it.

"It is a confidentiality pledge that you have to take, that you're sworn for life to protect any information you might see during the course of your employment," she said, "and it is punishable up to five years in prison and of a fine of $250,000 or both. So, it is a very serious pledge that they take."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID