By Susana Irles
WASHINGTON – Dora the Explorer, the famous bilingual character on Nickelodeon television, will be the new spokesperson for the 2010 Census who will try to make Hispanic families see the importance of getting their kiddies counted so as not to miss this “historic opportunity.”
The campaign was launched Tuesday by Census Bureau Director Robert Groves during a news conference at Mary’s Center, a nonprofit maternal and child care center serving immigrant communities in Washington.
Under the slogan “Children Count Too,” the ad campaign featuring TV and radio commercials, Web links and informative leaflets will have nationwide reach.
In a statement to Efe, Groves explained that the counting is “important for everyone, but especially for children, because looking at how the Census has worked in the past, we realize that we leave out the kids.”
A report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation confirmed that fact in December 2009, when it revealed that the number of children under 5 has been undercounted in every Census since the first one, conducted in 1790.
After speeches by Census representatives, Dora made a surprise visit to the center’s conference room and greeted the little ones who, accompanied by their parents, took advantage of the occasion to have their idol autograph their backpacks, T-shirts and books.
“The Hispanic community has organized itself on many social and political occasions and in unprecedented ways. And the Census is another way for the community to secure its rights in society, above all for those who are new here,” Groves said.
He stressed the strength of the laws to protect undocumented aliens who fill out Census forms.
“If you take part in the Census, your answers go nowhere except to the Census Bureau. By law, we cannot pass them to any other agency, or to your landlord, to find out how many people live in your apartment,” he said.
The information gathered will be used to determine the annual distribution of more than $400 billion for educational services and other programs for children.
For the president of Mary’s Center, Maria Gomez, such funds are “very important” for the Latino community.
“A lot of people ask me why, if I’m undocumented or poor. The thing is that we haven’t been counted. And the more of us there are, the more money that will come to the region where we live,” she told Efe.
She also warned that “if a baby who is born today isn’t counted, he won’t be counted until he’s in fourth grade.
Homes in the United States will start receiving the 120 million questionnaires by mail starting March 15. EFE