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Local Groups Start Final Sprint For Census Count In Immigrant Neighborhoods
Wednesday, September 9, 2020
Photo by Matthew Bowler
A federal judge in San Jose ruled earlier this week that census workers can’t yet begin to wind down operations.
But local organizations, joined by San Diego congressman Juan Vargas, are still sprinting to the finish line — to make sure everyone in San Diego county gets counted. Barrio Logan and nearby Logan Heights are two of the neighborhoods in San Diego county still lagging behind in their census count.
So on Wednesday morning, members of the Count Me 2020 Coalition were joined by congressman Juan Vargas, to try to push those neighborhoods over the finish line — regardless of how much time they have left to count.
That’s tougher in neighborhoods with many undocumented and mixed-status families who try to avoid interaction with the government. But Vargas says their participation is crucial to getting their communities the services and representation they need.
“A lot of young people say, 'I can’t vote, because I’m undocumented, I’m a dreamer.' And I say, 'Well you better get counted then, because you getting counted matters.' That’s a political action,” Vargas told KPBS. “You’re a human being. That is a political action, standing up and saying, 'I’m a human being.' So you get counted so that we get more political representation here.”
In August, the Trump Administration, after originally extending census counting until the end of October because of the ongoing pandemic, shortened the count to the end of September.
A judge has put that on hold for now, pending further court hearings next week. But census counters from the government had already begun wrapping up their work in San Diego, with an eye towards ending all in-person counting by September 18th.
“This is like a last hurrah to get together and say, 'Listen, let’s get together collectively, all the organizations, let’s focus our efforts on these areas,'” said Dhalia Balmir with the Black American Political Association of California, one of the groups making up the Count Me 2020 coalition.
While the county as a whole is over 72% in its response rate, Barrio Logan and Logan Heights are still just above 50%.
“If we can get for example Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, out of the late fifty percent, you’ll see the 72% climb even higher. Right? So that’s what we’re trying to accomplish. I am hopeful, I’m glad we caught this right now because we don’t have much time. But you know what? People make it happen,” Balmir said.
No matter what the courts decide, with billions of dollars in federal funding on the line, local groups and elected officals are continuing to push for an accurate census count, despite a pandemic, wildfires, and fluctuating deadlines.
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