Thursday, February 25, 2010

106,000? Or was that 126,000?

Last night at Pollard, Lindsay Tarrant and Barbara Warren of the UML Community and Social Psychology Dept. presented a panel-led discussion titled "Our Community and the Census 2010."

Vong Ros of the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association (CMAA) and the 2010 Census led off with some statistics: According to 2000 Census data, there are officially only 9,800 Cambodian-Americans in Lowell. However, based on projections formed by statistics on the city's public school demographics, there were an estimated 25,000 Cambodian-Americans living in Lowell at the time. Now, that figure could be as high as 35-40k. The undercounting of that community hurts the city, the region, and the state in terms of Congressional and tax dollar apportionment.

One of the biggest discussion points was addressing the fear that certain people, particularly undocumented immigrants, may have of a government representative seeking data about themselves or their households. The 2010 Census is addressing that by changing its local strategy towards one that emphasizes existing community organizations emphasizing the Census' importance and using more workers who can address people in their native language.

There were several questions about this, and it was reiterated several times that there is both written law and judicial precedent making it clear that ANY personal data recorded by the Census about ANYONE cannot be shared with any law enforcement or other federal agency. Still, that may be no consolation to someone who fears a government-sponsored knock on the door for any purpose.

Another major change in 2010, as opposed to past years, is the length of the form itself. The census form this year is only 10 questions long, whereas past iterations included as many as several dozen questions.

Another issue that came up regards confusion among the multiple census forms people will receive this year. The city census form you recently received in the mail is not the federal, once-every-ten-years form you will soon receive. There is also a separate Labor Dept. census that is not to be confused with the federal 2010 Census.

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