A last-minute Census reminder for Asian Americans

I’ve been meaning to post a reminder for everyone (non-Asians too!) to fill out your U.S. Census forms, or if you don’t get it done and postmarked by the end of March, to be sure respond to census workers when they come to your door in the months to come.

It’s especially important for ethnic minority communities to be counted because an accurate accounting means every community will receive the federal services and funding it deserves. And remember, this has nothing to do with citizenship, or whether you’re a student, visitor, legal, illegal, whatever. It’s just counting people across the U-S of A.

Here’s an article from the JACL about the Census and why it’s important:

JACL Says “Get Everyone Counted in the 2010 Census”

By Phillip Ozaki and Carla Pineda

Another decade has gone by, so that means its Census time! The JACL is making extraordinary efforts to make sure everybody in our community gets counted. Over $400 billion in federal funding is at stake. One person left out is equal to a loss of $1,300 over the next 10 years to his neighborhood. Everyone deserves a piece of the pie so make sure to get your forms in at the beginning of April. Historically, racial minorities have been undercounted including Asian Pacific Americans, and the JACL hopes to prevent that in 2010.

The image of Japanese Americans is usually one of Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei, and beyond who have been in the country for many generations. However, 2000 Census data indicates that only about 1/3 of respondents fit this image and are full Japanese by race. Another 1/3 are mixed race/ethnicity. The last 1/3 are newer immigrants called Shin-Issei and Shin-Nisei. In order to get a complete and accurate count of the Japanese/Asian American community, we must learn about the special needs of each sector of the population.

The JA population is not necessarily the often perceived Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei, and beyond framework. resulting in unique concerns for the 2010 Census
Race and Mixed Race/Ethnicity:

If someone is full Japanese or another Asian group, they can simply check off the correct box or write it in, but what if someone is mixed race or ethnicity? Mixed individuals are able to check more than one category in response to the race question. This allows, for example, a person who has a White parent and a Japanese parent to check both the White box and the Japanese box. Japanese Latin Americans, like someone from Brazil with Japanese blood, can check off the Hispanic box as well.

Head of Household Matters:
Counting a household is different from counting the individuals in it and matters to prevent an undercount of minority populations. The census only counts mixed-race households if the person of color completes the form as Person #1. Regardless of who makes more money or decisions in the house, the person of color should be listed as Person#1.

Disconnected Identity:
Some mixed people may identify more with one part of their race than others and fill out their census form in a way that is harmful to the ignored part. Imagine someone filling out their form as only Caucasian when in fact they are one-eighth Japanese. Then, the portrait of the Japanese and entire American community becomes skewed. It is important for mixed people to check off all appropriate boxes even if they do not identify with each category.

Here are more concerns for our community:
• Counting the Elderly is a concern for the elderly in that they might forget to fill out their forms or forget that it is a census year. Please remind our seniors to fill out their forms and help them fill it out.
• College Students living away from home are counted at school and not at home. Their dorm will count them or their household will receive a census form. Also, Students studying abroad are not counted, while foreign students studying in the U.S. will be counted.
• The Economic crisis causes many concerns for the 2010 Census. One is that local funding has decreased for census outreach. In California, the 2000 Census budgeted $25 million, but the 2010 Census only has $2 million. This decade, we depend on community organizations and individuals to help out.
• Transient housing is another effect of the recession. Many families and children may change their living situation. Generally, a person is counted where he or she lives and sleeps most of the time during the year.
• New Immigrants may need language assistance or are not aware of the 2010 Census. Translated materials in almost every Asian language can be found at www.fillinourfuture.org

If you have any questions about the 2010 Census please contact the Census Bureau or the JACL office at 202.223.1240, email census@jacl.org, or visit our website at www.jacl.org

Phillip Ozaki is the Mineta Fellow and Carla Pineda is a 2010 Census Intern in the JACL Washington DC Office

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