Updated 04/06/2010 06:15 PM
Community Groups Urge New Yorkers To Participate In Census
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The deadline to return the 2010 U.S. Census form has come and gone, but there is still hope many more people will participate.
Community groups and civil rights activists gathered in TriBeCa Tuesday to urge people to participate. But they warned there is a problem with some of the foreign language forms.
"The Vietnamese form said, get yourself counted in the ‘communist government investigation.’ That is how they translated the census,” said Glenn Magpantay of the Asian-American Legal Defense Fund. “The word for ‘what's your county’ in Korean was translated as ‘nation.’"
"There's a lot of people in this country, they don't want us to fill out the forms. They want us to disappear,” said Angelo Falcon of the National Institute for Latino Policy. “They want us to go someplace else. Don't give them the satisfaction. Fill out the forms just to bust those people's chops."
As of Tuesday afternoon, census participation in the city is only at 48 percent – 14 percentage points lower than the national average.
Manhattan has the best borough participation at 54 percent, while Brooklyn has the lowest participation of only 42 percent.
Participation in the Bronx and Queens are also low.
Civil rights lawyers are urging communities of color to send the questionnaires in. They say it will help bring federal dollars to neighborhoods that need the money.
They estimate the city lost nearly $850 million over the last 10 years because so many people were not counted in the 2000 census.
"Each person that doesn't participate or is somehow missed by the census takes away over $2,000 from their community in the highest under counted communities," said Jenigh Garret of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
For immigrants or others who may not want to share information with the government, civil rights lawyers were quick to point out Tuesday that any census worker who breaks the confidentiality laws can be punished.
"They could be fined up to $250,000 and thrown in jail for up to five years. That is something I know the folks here, the lawyers here will enforce that on behalf of our communities," said Angelo Falcon of the National Institute for Latino Policy.
Residents who have not yet mailed in their form by April 15th should expect a visit by a census worker to their home. Those who don't respond at all could face a $100 fine.
To see the latest census response rates, go to 2010Census.gov