Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Confidentiality of Census

As a debate heats up over whether undocumented immigrants should cooperate with the census, in New York, a gathering of immigrant rights leaders and census officials assure immigrants of the confidentiality of the census:

Over 90 newspapers, TV and radio journalists from New York City’s ethnic and community media met at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism to get the details on the upcoming 2010 Census and its relationship to immigration law enforcement and the importance of participation. The briefing was organized by New York Community Media Alliance (NYCMA) in partnership with New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), NYC 2010 Census Office, CUNY TV and United States Census Bureau.

The briefing was organized in an effort to get census information to communities that sit beyond the Census 2010 outreach initiative, which is being conducted in only 7 languages.

New York City, where immigrants and communities of color represent roughly 60 percent of its residents, is identified as the US city with the most hard-to-reach communities and the lowest response rate in the country.

“A high rate of undercounting may lead to invisible communities. With this press briefing we want to engage the ethnic media to be part of the process and to inform their communities about the significance of participating in the Census,” said Juana Ponce de León, executive director of NYCMA, in her opening remarks.

To address the widespread fear in immigrant communities that undocumented relatives and friends risked arrest and deportation if they gave their information to the Bureau, Allison Cenac, senior officer at the New York regional Census Bureau office, assured the reporters this would not happen and spoke of steep fines and incarceration for those who broke this confidence. “Participation in the census is safe. We just want all New Yorkers to be counted, including the undocumented,” she said.

Stacey Cumberbatch, director of NYC 2010 Census Office, explained that accurate statistical information on the City’s population was important as it would determine the share of federal funding for critical services such as education, health care, and transportation. “The share of representation in the Congress and the City Council is also based on Census data,” she added.

“Every community must organize itself and plan its outreach,” said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of NYIC and a trusted voice in the city’s immigrant communities. She pointed out that the role of the ethnic and community media was very important in the mobilization effort.

Tony Farthing, regional director of the Census Bureau, emphasized the need for the ethnic media “to motivate everyone to fill out the form and mail it back,” adding they could play the lead role in educating and building trust between the communities and the Census Bureau.

Of great importance to the attendees was information on economic opportunities for their communities brought by the Census initiative, which is hiring locally and can direct media representatives to advertising dollars for their outlets.

For more information, please contact NYCMA Communications Manager:

Jehangir Khattak, nycomm@indypressny.org, (212) 279-1442

bh

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