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February 16, 2000
Confidentiality: Census to issue television ads to reassure minorities
For Piyush Agarwal, Nick Shenoy and a handful of Indian Americans on various Census 2000 panels and advisory committees it is not enough to remind the Indian sub-continent communities to fill in the Census forms.
They have to make an extra effort to spread the word through temples, churches and mosques that people have to fill in the forms irrespective of their residency status.
Census officials are worried that a lot of people, either out of cynicism or negligence, will not fill in the forms. And some will avoid the census forms because of the fear that their legal status could be reported to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Ten years ago about 65 per cent of households returned their forms, which forced the Census Bureau to send a mini army of people door-to-door.
According to community leaders and Census officials about eight million people were missed.
"Surely there were thousands of Indians who also were missed," says Subash Razdan, who is on the state advisory committee in Atlanta. He stressed that the federal and state funding for poorer people got affected because people did not respond to the Census forms.
"There is no fear of Census officials reporting to the INS," he says. "They are forbidden by law to do any such thing."
Census officials say the American population is bigger now (by an estimated 20 million) and more immigrants worry that the information will be shared with immigration officials.
Privately many bureau officials worry that the response rate will be even worse this year.
Meanwhile, hundreds of public announcements will go out in a few months, some made by baseball stars, assuring people that they do not have to fear the Census. The ads will be aired on NBC during NBA games, the Family Channel, USA Network, The Weather Channel, ESPN2, FX, Sci-Fi Channel, Animal Planet, Nick at Nite, TNN, VH1, Comedy Central, FOX Sports, The History Channel and network affiliates.
There are also plans to have advertisements in several Indian languages including Urdu, Punjabi and Bengali.
As mandated by the Constitution, a Census is conducted every 10 years. Its results are used in a variety of ways that benefit all residents of the United States. The Census provides the data for fair political representation. Political maps are redrawn on the basis of Census results. A city may gain or lose seats in the Congress based on the new population count. It also provides data that are used by decision-makers in federal, tribal, state and local governments when allocating important resources. Businesses use Census data to determine products and services relevant to the community.
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