Census regional director Kathleen Ludgate at a talk with New England ethnic reporters.
The 2010 U.S. Census gets underway one year from now. Amid concerns over an undercount of immigrants and ethnic minorities, census officials recently met with ethnic media journalists from New England to address fears and suspicions that may discourage people from participating in the census survey.
According to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights there are three main reasons why the 2010 census will be especially challenging:
- The rise of anti-immigrant rhetoric, and heightened immigrant enforcement activities, have created real fear and distrust of the government;
- The foreclosure crisis and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have displaced millions of people, making it hard to do an accurate count; and
- As the first census after 9/11, the Census Bureau will have to deal with Americans’ privacy concerns about how their information is used.
The journalists attending the meeting in Boston represented TV, radio, Internet and newspaper media for African American, Brazilian, Cape Verdean, Chinese, Polish and Spanish communities. Census regional director Kathleen Ludgate told them that the census needs to create media buzz where it matters, in the communities.
“The idea here is to have ethnic journalists tell us the talking points that interest their own readers,” she said.
Addressing the fear that some undocumented residents have about answering the census, Ludgate said “whether it’s the Patriot Act or anything else that’s happened over this decade, the Census Bureau has a good track record of maintaining confidentiality.”
Some immigrants workers have told ethnic newspapers and radio programs that they fear personal information could be used against them if it is revealed to local authorities — even if the information turns out to be inaccurate.
“We don’t share information with the city or anyone else. The only purpose for the data we collect is for the census,” assured Ludgate, whose Region I office oversees all six states of New England, upstate New York, and Puerto Rico.
Census media specialist Cesar Monzon explained, all employees of the census sign an oath of confidentiality, which is renewed annually. Anyone who reveals specific information about any household would be subject to up to five years in prison, plus a $250,000 fine.
In addition, federal laws require that specific data about residents be concealed for 72 years before it can be made accessible to the general public. (more…)