What Is the Census?

The census is a self-portrait of the nation. The U.S. Constitution requires the federal government count everyone living in the country every 10 years. The tally must include people of all ages, races, and ethnic groups; all citizens and non-citizens. Every household should complete a census form (either online, or by mail or phone) by April 1, 2020. Participating in the census is our right and responsibility.

Why is the Census Important?

Census data shape the future of our community and define our voice in Congress.

  • The 2020 Census will determine how more than $700 billion in federal government resources will be distributed each year for the next decade to states and localities.

  • Census data is used to determine where schools, roads, hospitals, child care centers, senior centers and other services should be built.

  • Key federal programs rely on data and allocations derived from the census, including:

  • Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicare Part B, Highway Planning and Construction, Section 8, Title I Grants, Special Education Grants (IDEA), State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Head Start.

  • Census data are also used for apportionment of Congressional seats and redistricting at all levels of government.

  • Census data are indispensable for monitoring discrimination and the enforcement of a broad range of civil rights laws.

Why Are Refugees At Risk of Not Being Counted?

Until 2017, the United States led the world in refugee resettlement. California has historically resettled more refugees than nay other state, welcoming nearly a quarter of all new arrivals since 1975. Refugee newcomers face issues similar to those experienced by many immigrants: language barriers, high housing costs, low incomes, and inadequate access to education opportunities, jobs, and healthcare. They live in urban and rural areas across the state, and will face similar barriers to Census participation as other hard-to-count communities.

- Distrust of government

In addition to cultural differences that result in a distrust of government, refugees are arriving after experiencing significant trauma in their countries of origin and often during their long journey to this country. Their instinct may be to district a government questionnaire seeking personal information about them and their families.  

- Hidden Homelessness

Refugees often have more children and extended family to house and support through reunification efforts. Californians affordable housing crisis makes finding affordable and appropriate housing a significant challenge identified by refugee families. They are often forced to live in overcrowded situation, and many times in violations of leases which may deter them from accurately representing the number of people in their household. 

- Fear

Many refugee populations are experiencing heightened government surveillance and harassment in the wake of the trump administration’s policies and rhetoric against refugee communities, including the repeated Muslim bans. These targeted threats pose a direct and significant barrier to Census participation. 

What Is the Refugee Census Hub? 

Build upon the expertise of 15 organizations to activate and support trusted messengers to provide in-language Census education and assistance to increase Census participation among hard-to-count refugee and MASA/MENA communities across San Diego County

  • PANA has organized, is facilitating, and will provide ongoing support to a Refugee Census Hub of 15 organizations serving 31 different language communities. For the past three months, the Hub has engaged in thoughtful strategic planning to ensure efficient leveraging of resources and community expertise to deliver Census outreach, education, and questionnaire assistance from trusted community messengers, core refugee service providers, and mosques that serve refugee and MASA/MENA communities living in 75 hard-to-count Census tracts across San Diego County. 

Our Recommendations: 

  • Translation and interpretation services: 

California’s diverse refugee population represents more than 50 different languages and dialects. Because Census information will not be offered in most of these languages, there is a need for significant investment in local translation and interpretation services for CBO’s and local governments. 

  • Trusted messengers: 

Support is needed to ensure there are in-language, trusted community messengers. They will be critical to educating the community on the importance of participation and its direct impact on quality of life issues like affordable housing that are of importance to refugee newcomers. These trusted messengers can be trained by community based organizations and service providers, but special consideration should also be given to ensuring they are hired as enumerators and included in Census staffing. 

  • Trusted spaces: 

Partnerships with and support for community based organizations and health and human services providers is critical to ensuring that questionnaire assistance will be provided in language and in trusted, safe spaces.