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Census Counts on Colorado's Ethnic Communities for 2010 Count

New America Media, News Report, Elena Shore / Video by Paul Billingsley Posted: Nov 13, 2009

DENVER, Colo. The day after Denver voters rejected a controversial measure that was seen as an attack on immigrants, ethnic media met to discuss the next big challenge for their communities: the 2010 Census.

In the six or seven years Ive been in Denver, I dont recall ever seeing a gathering of this sort, all the ethnic media at one time, said Mario Carrera, general manager of Entravision in Colorado. Its a difficult time, with anti-immigrant legislation at the city and state level.

The meeting was held one day after Denver voters voted down Initiative 300, which would have required police officers to seize the vehicle of any person driving without a license. The measure, rejected by 70 percent of voters, was criticized as an effort to target undocumented immigrants.

I cant think of a more powerful message, that everyone in this country counts, at a time when were looking at a very powerful potential backlash," said Sandy Close, director of New America Media, which co-sponsored the event.

Census representatives asked ethnic media leaders to help them reach the growing populations of the city including Hispanic, Brazilian, African and Russian and to encourage their audiences to participate in the 2010 count.

The Russian community is a fast growing community in Colorado, from immigration and also from state-to-state migration from California and New York, said Gorizont Newspaper editor Leonid Reznikov. But we dont know how many of us there are, he said, noting that estimates range from 70,000 to 120,000. Encouraging readers to order the application in Russian, he said, could be a way to motivate the community to finally get an accurate count.

Giving people a personal stake in the U.S. Census by showing them that their presence as a collective group would be noted could make residents more likely to participate, editors said.

The challenges, according to Census officials, will be to reach people who move around frequently, to reach what they called the wired generation that relies on new media, and perhaps most importantly to make sure people trust the Census Bureau.

In order to assuage fears, the Census Bureau is trying to publicize something that not many people may know: Census workers take a lifelong vow never to divulge any information gained through their job, such as a persons legal status.

We take the oath very seriously, said Mark Hellfritz, assistant regional Census manager for the Denver office. Thats a lifetime oath we take to keep information we collect confidential. If an enumerator goes out there and learns something about their neighbor, they have to make sure they never speak of that, in any context, in any way.

Marilia A. Matos, U.S. Census Bureau associate director for field operations, who has been with the Census for more than 26 years, said the Censuss slogan is safe, easy and important": safe, because the information provided is confidential; easy, because it takes about 10 minutes to respond; and important because the data is used for redistricting, determining the number of seats each state receives in the House of Representatives, and distributing federal funds.

The 2010 Census will be used to allocate more than $400 billion in public funds, including funding for disasters, schools, libraries, transportation and health care. The H1N1 vaccines, for example, are being distributed to communities based on their population as measured by the last Census count.

This is the best-planned, most well-researched Census ever, according to Hellfritz.

Questionnaires will be mailed to every address in March. Residents will return the forms by mail, the cheapest, most effective way to get counted. Census counters will then visit every household that does not return the questionnaire between May and July 2010. For the first time, enumerators will be using a handheld computer and collecting GPS coordinates by block.

With 34 percent of the U.S. population made up of racial minorities and an estimated 45 million Hispanics living in the United States, Census officials said the 2010 Census would present a new portrait of America.

But the challenge of reaching out to diverse populations, in multiple languages, could make it difficult to collect accurate information.

Theres a lot of fear, theres a lot of apathy out there, said Hellfritz.

The Denver region covers 10 states (Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming) and is unique in the country: It includes five of the fastest growing states (Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming); the largest Native American population of any region (more than 28 percent of all American Indians living in the United States); and the third largest Hispanic population of any region (one in every 10 Hispanics in the United States live in the Denver region).

The Census Bureau has identified the areas that are hard to count based on the 2000 Census and local knowledge and is actively recruiting hundreds of thousands of people there to knock on the doors of households that do not respond.

The Bureau also plans to create awareness by working with the media and launching a 28-language paid media campaign.

But some representatives of local ethnic media outlets are concerned that the media campaigns could leave their markets out.

Im very disappointed to hear that some guy in New York who doesnt have a clue about the Hispanic market in Colorado is going to make these decisions, said Bob Armendariz, editor of Hispania News.

Campaigns in Denvers Hispanic media will be planned by the New York ad agency D Exposito & Partners. Their criteria for selecting markets to focus on will be determined by the population size, the degree to which that population is hard to count, and the media outlets in that market.

Beyond language barriers, media leaders emphasized the importance of marketing the Census to a culturally diverse audience in English. The multicultural television channel CoLours TV, for example, includes Asian, Native-American, African-American and Caribbean blocs.

Michael Cook, acting branch chief of Decennial Media Relations, said English-language campaigns would be catered to different communities. Each message will reflect the different motivation of the audience it is targeting. For some communities, he said, the question of confidentiality is the most important factor in encouraging them to participate. Other groups, he said, want to know whats in it for me and my children.

Census officials said that the communities reached by Denvers ethnic media including Asian, Russian, Latino and African-American are all considered hard to count. The Census Bureau plans to recruit census takers from within those communities, which will also bring temporary jobs into a depressed market.

Three million people will be recruited nationwide, and close to 700,000 people will be hired between May and July.

The one thing we know at the Census is that you are the experts, said Leo Cardenas, media specialist with the Denver Regional Census Center. You know how to communicate with your communities, and we need your help. We know were going to miss some. But with your help, we wont miss as many.

Related Articles:

Chicago Ethnic Media Question U.S. Census Officials

Gay Community Hopes For Accuracy in Census 2010

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