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Stand Up and Get Counted

The Arab American News, News Report, Nick Meyer Posted: Mar 01, 2010

DEARBORN, Mich.--With more than $400 billion in federal grants at stake, the importance of local residents filling out the upcoming 2010 census forms is as clear as day.

And with just ten questions to fill out on the census forms, which will be sent out on March 15 and take only about ten minutes to complete, standing up and being counted in 2010 couldn't be much easier.

In addition to the push for more people in the Arab American and metro Detroit communities at-large to fill out forms this year, the Census Bureau is also hiring people for numerous part-time positions as the effort shifts into high gear.

While the Arab American community has understandably shown disappointment over not being included as a recognized ethnicity on the forms, U.S. specialist for the Detroit region of the census, Michael Bsharah, said such concerns shouldn't stop them from filling out forms.

"There have been some concerns addressed by folks in our community about not having their own box and whether or not they should boycott the census," Bsharah said. "But people don't really understand what's at stake when you do stand up and are counted and that boycotting serves no purpose," he said.

Bsharah said that those concerns should be voiced at other times but that for now, Arab Americans should focus on making sure their communities get the needed finances from the government that the census provides.

"If you want an invitation to the party you have got to provide your address," he said. "By not involving yourself in the process, you can't benefit."

For those wondering which box to check, Bsharah said that most members of ethnic groups that are not included usually use the write-in option.

By law in the United States, every resident of the U.S., both citizens and non-citizens, must be counted every ten years in the census, which began in 1790. Also by law, the Census Bureau is not allowed to share respondents' answers with anyone including other federal agencies and law enforcement entities.

Bsharah said that even people concerned about their immigration status should still fill out the survey with the utmost confidence because the government has been judicious in its protection of confidentiality of the forms by law.

In addition to the distribution of the approximately $400 billion worth of funds, U.S. Congressional seats are also reapportioned to states as a result of the census process.

At an event in January co-hosted by Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly and Dearborn Heights Mayor Daniel Paletko encouraging census participation, Paletko cited, as an example of the census' financial impact on cities, $1.2 million in Community Development Block Grants that the city receives based on its population of just under 60,000.

"I don't know of anything else that raises funds that quick like this census," Paletko added. For more information on the upcoming 2010 census, visit www.census2010.gov.

The bureau is also still looking for numerous part-time employees for metro Detroit, with offices based in the city of Detroit. Arab Americans are particularly needed according to Bsharah, especially to make the rounds during the follow-up procedure to attend to those who don't fill out their forms during the initial response period.

"We look forward to signing up many Arab Americans, particularly those who can speak Arabic because of the importance of the non-response follow up, although they don't have to speak Arabic in order to apply," Bsharah said.

"We need people to go door-to-door in the community so they can make it as comfortable as possible for the residents."

The general recruitment number for prospective census employees is 1.866.861.2010, which will direct callers to the local census office for information on testing for jobs and which jobs are available. Jobs offered include field staff and office staff positions, including clerks, enumerators, supervisors and crew leaders. Tests for applicants include basic math and English questions and are fairly short.

"We have a very critical need for Arab Americans in this process and the fullest count possible will benefit the community for the next ten years," Bsharah said. "It is a great opportunity to serve the community and to serve your family for that matter."

Related Articles:

Officials Urge Arab Americans to Participate in Census

Arab Americans Chafe Over Census Form

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