There were significant troubles in Florida during the 2000 Census that resulted in many Census Bureau employees being fired from their jobs and a recount taken in certain areas of the state. Will there be similar problems in 2010? Many Floridians, especially minorities, fear just that. Check out the following reports from the Sun Sentinel:
When census takers visit Walter Hunter’s mostly black community in Pompano Beach next year for the big, every-10-years count, he predicts they will encounter a lot of slammed doors.
They are likely to get a similar reception in Delmond Desira’s Haitian neighborhood in Delray Beach, where many don’t understand how filling out the 10-question form would improve their lives.
Hunter and Desira live in South Florida enclaves the U.S. Census Bureau ranks among the hardest to count: pockets of Pompano Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Park, Delray Beach and Belle Glade.
In those areas, with heavy concentrations of immigrants who don’t speak English, poor people and rental units, almost half the residents did not return mailed surveys for the last big count, in 2000.
Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade are among the 50 counties in the nation with the most people living in hard-to-count areas, according to a report released in April by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a children’s advocacy group.
This time, the Census Bureau plans to work harder to reach these people, through the schools, a more creative multi-language campaign and a shorter survey form — 10 questions that take just 10 minutes, the catch phrase goes. Volunteers will put up signs in beauty salons and convenience stores and get the word out at houses of worship and nonprofit centers.
This fall, grade-school children will study the census in math and geography classes, and they will take home census materials for their parents. In January, the Census Bureau will launch an advertising campaign in 28 languages urging participation. The form is not available in Creole, however, and critics say that will hinder the count of South Florida’s large Haitian population.
And another story:
Some of the people that make up Florida’s Haitian community may not partake in one of the most important events of this nation – the 2010 Census. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, heavily concentrated areas where Haitians live, such as Pompano Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach are very hard to tally when it comes to the once-a-decade count. This is mainly due to the language barrier that most Haitians, many being immigrants, encounter when it comes to understanding and completing the surveys issued by the Census Bureau.
Although the Broward County‘s Census 2010 Complete Count Committee is strategizing ways to get to those who were missed back in 2000 by producing informational guides in various languages, including Creole, the actual census is not offered in Haiti’s national language. Despite the Bureau’s outreach effort, it may still have difficulty reaching these communities. As a Haitian-American, I can attest that many Haitian residents, especially those who do not speak English, will probably disregard the survey once they receive it in the mail. This is simply because they do not understand the importance and / or the basis of the Census. In other words, such a survey is considered junk mail.
I believe an effective strategy would be to educate the community on what exactly the Census is, the concept behind it and why it is imperative that they participate. Nevertheless, the fact that the Census Bureau is launching an advertising campaign in 28 languages, except for Creole, will contribute to the hindrance in the counts, at least in South Florida. While some Haitian immigrants and / or residents may rely on their English-speaking children to translate the Census survey, a majority of them will not have that advantage. Those who come to the United States together as a family, but are without relatives in the country, will be the hardest to reach.
This was very much the case for my parents, until my siblings and I came into the picture. Though they were able to survive on their own, the fact that we came around made life much easier for them. For example, learning about the Census at school allowed me to go home and look out for the surveys, as well as assist my parents in answering the questions. Now they have a better understanding of the Census and are capable of filling it out on their own.
Hopefully, the Haitian children that are starting school this fall will not only learn census in math and geography classes, but will also be able to pass on the knowledge to their parents. If not, then the Census Bureau may want to develop a new marketing campaign in Creole.