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Local Organizations Urging Immigrant, Refugee Communities To Fill Out Census

Martha Romero canvasses in City Heights to let her neighbors know about this ...

Photo by Max Rivlin-Nadler

Above: Martha Romero canvasses in City Heights to let her neighbors know about this year's census on March 2, 2020.

A week-long effort is underway to make sure every Californian gets counted in the 2020 Census.

Locally, the “Count Me 2020 Coalition” is focusing on reaching the hardest-to-count communities.

Ramah Awad, a community organizer with the Majdal Community Center in El Cajon, said her group was going door to door to urge people to fill out the Census. Then, COVID-19 hit.

Since then, the group has switched its operation to remote status.

“We’re still kind of playing it safe and deciding to keep it remote for now ... that’s looked like phone banking, calling community members, helping them fill it out over the phone or just explaining to them what the Census is," Awad said.

She's anxious to get back into her community, she said. That community consists of immigrants and refugees from the Middle East and North Africa who’ve settled in El Cajon.

RELATED: Advocates Worry Blacks, Hispanics Falling Behind In Census

Most of her work is reassuring people who’ve come from parts of the world where giving the government personal information can be risky, Awad said.

"Whatever you put in this document, in this form, will remain with the Census Bureau and it will not be shared with other government agencies,” she said.

There are also language barriers to overcome and for recent arrivals, making sure the Census form doesn’t get lost with all of the other paperwork they’re dealing with, Awad said.

Behind it all is a message of urgency, the importance of taking part in the Census.

“The stakes are high for residents across the US, but particularly high for immigrants and refugees who need to be counted so they can receive resources for schooling and health care and just general infrastructure,” Awad said.

Awad said she’s encouraged. She said a good portion of the people she talks to have already filled out their Census form.

The deadline to fill out the Census form is the end of October.

Listen to this story by John Carroll.

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John Carroll
General Assignment Reporter & Anchor

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI'm a general assignment reporter and Saturday morning radio anchor for KPBS. I love coming up with story ideas that aren't being covered elsewhere, but I'm also ready to cover the breaking news of the day. In addition, I bring you the local news headlines on Saturday mornings during NPR's Weekend Edition.

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