Friday, August 7, 2009

Myths and Facts on Immigrants and the Census

Image - The Providence Journal

Recent headlines and controversy over the expansion and revision of certain DHS programs has the potential to increase distrust- by both immigrants and the groups that serve them- around agencies of the federal government. With the 2010 Census right around the corner, the timing for this distrust could not be worse.

The below list (excerpted from the FCCP) gives an excellent outline of why immigrants (legal and non-legal) and the groups who serve them, can rest assured that:

1. When a non-citizen- legal resident or not- fills out and return his or her 2010 Census form, they need not fear their data being used against them by immigration authorities-


2. It is actually
in their best interest to fill out that form.

Myth: Undocumented immigrants should not be counted by the census.

Fact: Everyone counts in the census, regardless of immigration status.

  • The census is designed to count everyone living in the United States, regardless of legal status
  • Census statistics are used to figure out what kind of services each community needs, including schools, hospitals and health clinics, and jobs.
  • Census information is used to figure out which communities have enough people who speak languages other than English so as to require services in other languages.

Myth: Immigrants can avoid the census by not completing their census form.

Fact: If you don't want a visit from the government, complete your form promptly.

  • People who return a completed census form will not be contact by the Census Bureau
  • People who don't return a form by April 1 could have census workers come to their home up to six times to try to get a form completed

Myth: Immigrants don't benefit from the census.

Fact: Everyone, including immigrants, benefits from investments in education, health care, and jobs that are distributed based on census information.

And census data are also used in ways that are of special importance to immigrants, including:

  • funding for nonprofit organizations to provide job assistance aimed at making foreign-born people economically self-sufficient;
  • helping states and local agencies develop health care and other services tailored to the language and cultural diversity of immigrants, including health care and other services tailored to the language and cultural diversity of elderly people under the Older Americans Act.
  • allocating funds to school districts for children with limited English language proficiency;

Myth: Answering the census could get me in trouble with immigration or my landlord.

Fact: There's no need to fear the census. Individual information is safe and your privacy is strongly protected.

  • The census form does not ask about immigration status.
  • Census responses are confidential and protected by the strongest privacy laws we have.
  • No other law or agency can override protections for the confidentiality of people's responses to census questions – not the Patriot Act, the IRS, Homeland Security, or ICE.
  • No private company, landlord or employer can get any household's census information, even with a court order.

Myth: Immigrants can gain influence by threatening to boycott the census.

Fact: Boycotting the census can only hurt immigrant communities and limit their influence.

Numbers matter. In the past, immigrants have been more likely to be missed in the census. Getting everyone counted will demonstrate the strength of our communities and will give us a bigger voice in government, business, and decisions that affect our lives and families.

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