CHICAGO – The broad campaign launched by the Census Bureau to convince the immigrant population to participate in the 2010 count is not convincing those who feel that responding to the census takers could complicate their situation in the United States.
Starting in March, the Bureau will begin distributing forms so that all people in the country, including undocumented immigrants, may be counted and it has emphasized on numerous occasions that the information it collects will be confidential.
In fact, the U.S. Constitution establishes that the government every 10 years must make a count of all the residents of the country, not just those who are citizens.
However, among the population of people without legal status, like Maria Figueroa, there exists a fear of being counted.
“If they ask me about my immigration status I would simply not tell them yes or no, because I don’t know if they’re going to share that information with immigration (authorities),” Figueroa told Efe.
This fear is being expressed by immigrants in their telephone calls to radio programs directed at the immigrant community in Illinois, like Tania Unzueta’s program in Chicago.
Her program – “Sin papeles” (Without papers) – offers help to the immigrant community, including advice and recommendations about life in the United States.
“The program tries to connect the immigrant community, especially the undocumented people, with what’s happening in national and local politics,” she told Efe.
The issue of the Census is one of the subjects dealt with on that program and the community broadcaster Radio Arte will make time available during it for the Census and undocumented immigrants.
“It’s a double mission, on the one hand informing people about the importance of participating in the Census and on the other informing them about their rights,” said the show host, who also gives advice to her listeners about what to do if an immigration agent comes to their homes.
There are immigrants without papers who trust what the government is saying, as is the case with Yenni Popoca, who, despite being undocumented, is not afraid of opening the door of her house and recommends that people “answer the questionnaire,” since she feels that “it has nothing to do with immigration.”
That is also how Valeria Lopez feels, saying that she has no doubts that it’s okay to open the door to the 2010 Census personnel.
“It’s better to fill out the form. Nothing’s going to happen,” said Lopez confidently.
The Census Bureau notes that if people answer the questionnaires and return them in the mail on time, they will not be visited by the survey takers in April when the Census count officially begins.
The results of the national survey are used to allocate $400 billion from the federal government and to determine the distribution of seats in Congress, among other things.
A recent study by America’s Voice concluded that participation by Hispanics in the Census could definitely have an effect with regard to the makeup of Congress, calculating that the number of legislators will change in 19 states as a result of counting all members of that group. EFE