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Boston Census Officials Enlist Ethnic Media in Count

New America Media, News Report // Video, Anthony D. Advincula // Video: Paul Billingsley Posted: Sep 30, 2009

The US Census Bureau Meets With Boston's Ethnic Media from Paul Billingsley on Vimeo.

BOSTON Confronted with a looming boycott threat from immigrants in different parts of the country, U.S. Census Bureau officials here stepped up outreach and underscored the benefits people would get from the 2010 Census.

Seeking to boost the participation of minorities and immigrants, officials emphasized that federal fund allocations depend on the Census counts.

More than a billion dollars are distributed based on the decennial count, said Marilia Matos, associate director for field operations of the U.S. Census Bureau, at an ethnic media press briefing Sept. 17 at the University of Massachusetts.

Areas with large immigrant populations that may be undercounted, Matos said, would not only be shortchanged in congressional redistricting, but also in community-based programs that largely rely on federal funding.

It (census participation) will pay off for the communities, she added.

Stephen Buckner, assistant division chief for the Bureaus Public Information Office, implored the ethnic media to inform their communities to exercise their legal right.

If youre not counted, youre invisible, he said.

Citing the crucial role of ethnic media, Buckner asked: What can you do to help us increase awareness in your local community? What can you do to help others increase awareness in your local community? And what can we do to help you increase awareness in your local community?

We know that federal people cannot come out to local communities, said Kathleen Ludgate, director of U.S. Census Boston Regional Office. This is why we need trusted people from our communities. We need the voice of these communities.

Noting that areas in Boston and around the New England region were hard to count in the 2000 Census, Ludgate hoped that the 2010 Census will increase the returns of forms, reduce deferential counts and improve media coverage.

We really need your help, she said.

But ethnic media still have pressing concerns, such as people's fear of disclosing personal information and distrust of the government.

If the census is anonymous, why do people need to give their names? asked Mike Gillespie, senior vice president for the Boston bureau of Telemundo, the Spanish-language television network.

The Census Bureau collects names to match people surveyed in the census, Buckner said, and evaluate errors such as counting the same person in two different places.

With many extended families in a single household, for example, without the names and other related information, the Bureau wont have the means to check on the accuracy of the population count, he added.

Undocumented immigrants are afraid to answer the Census. What could we tell them? asked Heloisa Galvao of A Planeta, a Brazilian weekly.

The answers are protected by law and are strictly confidential, according to Matos. Every census employee vows not to share information collected with anyone. Breaking it would lead to fines and imprisonment.

Enhancing the coverage of the once-in-a-decade Census, Buckner said that the government has allocated half of its advertising dollars to ethnic and minority media across the country.

About 50 percent of media buys, although the number isnt fixed yet, will go to ethnic media, he said. This program has been going for over a year now. This is how we want to work with you.

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