By Emily Drooby
Advocate groups say that when it comes to completing the 2020 Census, getting that word out to the Haitian community during this next month will be crucial to increasing their participation in being counted.
“We can help with the applications, we can help them through the process because it is very important to us that everyone is counted for, because we are one New Yorker, we are one family, one community and it is up to us to make a difference,” said Porez Luxama, executive director of the Life of Hope Center in Brooklyn.
The organization has been working hard to overcome any reluctance to be counted, especially among immigrants in Brooklyn and Queens.
They have been giving the Haitian community special attention. Porez said that in the 2010 Census, only 30 percent of people were counted. Now, the number is over 50 percent. He said his group has contacted more than two thousand people alone.
“It’s still hard for us to get everyone engaged, because they have fear and the COVID makes it worse now,” Porez told Currents News.
Fears that immigration agents could get a hold of the information, a historically rooted distrust for government, pandemic quarantining and fears over the government and landlords knowing how many people are living in one home, have all prevented people from signing up for the census.
Larue Beharry, who volunteers with a second group working on this, Haitian Americans United for Progress, says it’s also a lack of understanding which is what these groups are trying to fix by speaking one-on-one with people.
“Once you break that barrier, once you are able to connect with people as fellow immigrants the barrier just comes down, it’s just the ability to talk to them and make them aware,” she explained.
Another issue? The census deadline, which was moved up to September 30, a month earlier than originally announced.
Volunteer Herold Dasque explained that despite the issues, representation is vital.
“It’s not about ICE, it’s not about immigration, it’s not about the administration,” he said. “It’s about the next 10 years of allocation and services that our people can receive, wherever they are.”
Census numbers determine funding for local schools, hospitals and roads. It also helps businesses decide where to build factories, offices and stores. It even shows developers where to build and what neighborhoods to fix up.
“But everybody needs to be counted for the census in order to have better services, better allocation in our states and our city, and to serve the people,” said Porez.
The two groups will continue their outreach until the deadline.
The online Census can be found at: https://2020census.gov/
A phone version is available at 844-330-2020. A Haitian Creole option is also available by phone at 844-477-2020.