A legal advocacy group launched an education and awareness campaign Wednesday encouraging Latinos in 11 Midwest states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin, to participate in the 2010 U.S. census.
“This is one of the most important civil rights issues,” said Elisa Alfonso, a director of the group’s Midwest office in Chicago. “This is what gives you access to voting and funding.”
The census, mandated by the U.S. Constitution every 10 years, asks questions about race, age, gender and the number of people living in each household. It is used to decide how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds are distributed and how congressional districts are drawn.
Still, challenges exist in reaching out to Latinos, Alfonso said. Some immigrants are wary of providing detailed personal information to the government because they fear doing so could lead to inquiries on immigration status for themselves or family members.
The census does not ask about immigration status or citizenship.
In its campaign, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund is stressing the confidentiality of the data and encouraging people to mail back completed forms early. Their slogan for the effort is “Hagase Contar,” or “Make Yourself Count.”
A bright yellow flier from the group reads, “by law, the Census Bureau cannot share your answers with anyone, including federal, state and local agencies. This includes immigration agencies.”
Census officials insist they’re making efforts. For the first time with the 2010 census, the agency is sending out Spanish-language questionnaires to about 13 million households.