Everyone — regardless of country of origin, background or immigration status — has the right to be counted in the U.S. Census. The stakes are clear: the Census determines how critical resources and political power are distributed across the country for the next 10 years. In New York City, our communities’ fair share of billions of dollars in federal funding is on the line. Moreover, if we are undercounted, we could lose up to two seats in Congress, diminishing the power of our voices at the federal level.
Since mid-March, New Yorkers have been completing the Census online, by mail and by phone. However, we have more work to do. As of Aug. 4, just 54 percent of New Yorkers had responded to the Census. In Queens, this figure is slightly higher at 54.9 percent, but it is not where we need to be. If we do not increase participation in the Census, we will lose funding for our neighborhood schools, affordable housing initiatives, hospitals and other healthcare services, public transportation, critical infrastructure like roads, bridges and more. As we continue to see during the unprecedented COVID-19 public health crisis, Black, Brown and immigrant populations would be disproportionately impacted should the city lose these critical resources. In addition, the loss of representation in Washington would be a significant setback in our fight to provide our communities with basic needs, like unemployment benefits and small business relief.
So what can we all do about it?
Right now, in less than 10 minutes, you can complete the 2020 Census on your own by going online at My2020Census.gov, or by calling 1 (844) 330-2020. Participating in the Census is safe for all. There are no questions about citizenship or immigration status on the Census. Phone support is available in 13 languages, and language guides and videos are available at 2020Census.govlanguages in 60 languages including American Sign Language and braille, as well as large print.
You can respond to the Census at any time, even as the Census workers begin knocking on the doors of those who have not yet responded during the Non-Response Follow-Up Period. During this time, Census workers — who are hired from local communities — visit all homes that have not completed the Census. They will continue to do so through Sept. 30. Census workers are required to count all New Yorkers who have not yet responded. It does not matter if you live in the basement apartment. It does not matter if your name is on the lease. All New Yorkers have the right to be counted.
Remember, all responses to the Census — whether collected online, over the phone, by mail or in person — are completely confidential and protected by federal law. By law, Census workers and the Census Bureau cannot share your responses with anyone — not immigration enforcement, not the police, not your landlord and not even with the City of New York.
How will you know a Census worker is at your door?
Let us first look at what a Census worker will not do:
• Enter your home.
• Ask about immigration status.
• Ask for Social Security numbers.
• Ask for bank account, credit or other payment information; nor will they ask for money, or donations.
A Census taker will:
• Have an ID that will include a photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date.
• Ask the same questions you would answer if you complete the Census online, over the phone or through the mail.
• Leave information on how to self-respond online or by phone if you are not home to answer the door.
• Wear masks and practice social distancing and other health and safety protocols.
You can also call (212) 882-7100 to speak with a Census Bureau representative to confirm if someone at your door is a real Census worker. If you believe you have been approached by someone who was not one, you should call the multilingual New Americans Hotline at 1 (800) 566-7636.
If you have concerns about speaking to someone in-person during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, you can provide the Census worker with your phone number, so that you can complete it over the phone. In addition, if the Census worker does not speak your language, you can request another visit from one who does. If you have not fully completed the Census and you do not answer the door for a Census worker, they will make additional in-person visits (as many as six total) in an attempt to contact you.
Every New Yorker has the right to be included in this once-in-a-decade count. While Census workers are already out knocking on doors, you can still self-respond to the 10 questions on the Census form in just 10 minutes online or over the phone. It is easy to do and crucial for our communities. Queens residents: We are not only relying on you to get counted, but to make sure your friends, family and neighbors are also counted. A complete count ensures that our communities are seen and our voices are heard! Get counted online, by phone, by mail, and be on the lookout for Census workers!
Bitta Mostofi is Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.