Boston Mayor Thomas Menino rallied with leaders of the city’s immigrant communities in a press conference in East Boston Wednesday to spread the 2010 federal census’ “Be Counted” message among Boston’s diverse spectrum of residents.
Speakers from an array of local minority organizations gathered at Harborside Community Center to encourage the crowd to celebrate the presence and freedom of today’s immigrant communities by participating in the upcoming census.
“Years ago, there were signs in business windows reading “No Irish Need Apply,’ but the Irish community came together and rejected their invisibility, and today, we need to do the same,” said Doris Cristobal, a representative of Boston’s Service Employees International Union. “Let’s join together, raise our voices and say, “Count me.'”
Ethnic groups from all over the city joined forces to advocate for the census, including organizations like the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, Association of Haitian Women, NAACP Boston Chapter, Filipino-American Advocacy Group, Human Rights Campaign and the Irish Immigration Center.
Menino focused the press conference on reminding leaders to promote the importance and impact of the census within their respective communities.
Ten years ago, in the last federal census, approximately 30,000 people went uncounted in the city of Boston, Menino said. He went on to explain that skewed population figures result in the loss of both federal dollars and appropriate representation in Congress.
The mayor said Massachusetts may have lost $1,700 in federal funding per uncounted person, per year, which directly affects the state’s ability to provide social services to its residents. He also said with such tight votes happening in Congress right now regarding issues such as health care, the state cannot afford to be misrepresented in national legislative bodies.
“This is a campaign, and the power of any campaign rests in personal contacts,” Menino said. “The power to help Boston for the next 10 years is in your hands.”
According to U.S. Census Bureau representative and attendee Carlos Alvarado, in past censuses, the three most underrepresented populations of Boston included minorities, students and males between ages 18 and 35.
Nearly all the speakers addressed the recurring issue of fear within immigrant populations stemming from a misunderstanding about the confidentiality of the information. They said many immigrants believe that participation in the census will jeopardize their residency within the country because of legal status.
According to a representative from the Secretary of State’s office who attended the press conference, however, all federal census records are strictly used for auditing the population of the democracy in order to distribute money and power accordingly. By law, no information is shared with the Department of Homeland Security or any other federal branch.
Because of such misconceptions, the city of Boston and the state will be sponsoring events similar to the press conference around various communities as a way of educating residents and advocating for the civic duty of census participation.
In the weeks leading up to the census deadline, college student populations will be another target for the Census Bureau, Alvarado said.
He said many students rely on their parents to fill out official documents or do not recognize their school address as being their permanent address, even though the census requires forms to be filled out for the location in which you reside for most of the year.
A rally to encourage student participation in the census is scheduled for March 31 at Boston University’s Agganis Arena.