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Civil rights leaders back ‘self-respond’ to 2020 Census

Participation in the U.S. Census is important, safe and secure

Pilar Marrero Ethnic Media Services | 4/2/2020, midnight

The U.S. Census self-response phase went live on March 12, and civil rights leaders of diverse ethnic groups came together to remind their communities of the many legal and privacy protections guaranteed by federal law for people to participate in the decennial count.

They also encouraged them to continue to “self-respond” by phone, online or mail and outlined the steps they will follow to continue to reach out to hard-to-count communities, addressing at the same time the health emergency of the Covid-19 as an additional challenge in Census 2020.

“We encourage our communities to sanitize and self-respond”, said Jeri Green, 2020 census senior advisor for the National Urban League.

The leaders emphasized that most Americans are now able to self-respond to the census in the privacy of their own homes without having to meet a census taker or enumerator. For example, people can go to https://2020census.gov/ and answer nine questions (seven for every person in the household other than the one filling out the questionnaire). They can also respond by phone or in printed form.

Several organizations have mounted massive campaigns to help their communities maximize their participation, given that the data collected by the U.S. Census is used in the distribution of resources, funding of services and political representation through drawing of districts for Congress, State Legislatures, etc.

Beth Lynk, census counts campaign director for The Leadership Conference Education Fund said the census is “one of the most urgent civil rights issues facing the country and right now every person in the U.S. has a chance to ensure a fair and complete count to all communities.”

Knowing that many in their communities have privacy concerns on the use of the data they will be sharing with the Census, the leaders reminded that the information has extraordinary levels of legal protection.

John Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice pointed to the laws that govern the use of the data given to the U.S. Census Bureau as “the strongest privacy protections allowed in the United States”.

Asian Americans are among the communities where there are many undocumented immigrants and mixed-status households, which creates mistrust towards the government and could affect a complete count. Every person living in the United States as of April 1 must be counted, and that includes undocumented immigrants.

“The confidentiality provision known as Title 13 prevents the government from using the census data for any purpose other than the statistical one”, said Yang. “More importantly, the bureau and its employees are not allowed to share the data with any other government agency or officials for any reason”.

Certain information gathered by the census cannot be published for 72 years, such as the name of the individual, business or organization, address or telephone number. Another layer of laws prohibits the use of data in any way against the individual who responded.

Yang pointed to their hotline for the Asian and Pacific Islander Community in several languages as a crucial resource to answer questions: (844) 2020-API or (844) 2020-0204.