Won’t count them out: Sunset Park civic gurus lay out plan to ensure area immigrants participate in census

Won’t count them out: Sunset Park civic gurus lay out plan to ensure area immigrants participate in census
Associated Press / Michelle R. Smith

Sunset Park civic gurus recently kicked off a grass-roots effort to encourage area immigrants to participate in the looming 2020 Census.

Leaders of Community Board 7 on Jan. 23 held the inaugural meeting of its newly formed Census Committee, whose officers will work to encourage members of the district’s large Asian-American and Hispanic populations to participate in the survey, despite fears that it may still include a citizenship question, and the Trump Administration’s general hostility towards immigrants.

An accurate count is critical to ensuring the community continues to receive its fair share of federal funding and representation, according to the chairman of the board’s Immigration Committee.

“This area needs services, and to get those services we need to ensure everyone’s counted,” said Jimmy Li.

Residents, community-board members, and reps for state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D–Sunset Park) and Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park) — who is heading up a census task force in Council — came out for the debut session, where attendees brainstormed mobilization plans.

Proposals included hosting workshops to educate immigrant residents on their rights and the importance of the survey, requisitioning computer labs at local libraries and schools where locals can complete the largely online survey, and enlisting faith leaders to use their pulpits to preach the necessity of participating in the census.

The Feds rely on information culled from the national head count to determine where to invest billions in annual state funding, and how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives, where New York State is already expected to lose up to two pols due to population loss, according to a 2018 report published by
Election Data Services.

Members of immigrant communities have traditionally shown more of a reluctance to participate in the census, and the lingering threat of a potential citizenship question — which a federal judge ruled against this month, prompting the Trump Administration to immediately appeal the decision — will likely further dissuade those locals from participating as long as it hangs over their heads, according to a Sunset Parker.

“I think the citizenship question is a part of a larger pattern,” Jorge Muñiz said at the meeting. “The administration is trying very hard to spread fear amongst immigrant communities. People are understandably skeptical anytime the federal government is reaching out and trying to collect information.”

But the CB7 Census Committee is moving full speed ahead with its organizing efforts even as that legal battle plays out in court, because its members want to be prepared for a final ruling that may not go in many of their neighbors favors, according to its chairwoman.

“We need to prepare for the worst case scenario,” said Rovika Rajkishun. “We can’t wait and then scramble at the last minute.”

The committee will host monthly meetings as it continues to shape its agenda, and encourages all locals in its district to attend the sessions, Rajkishun said.

And CB7 members aren’t the only ones working to ensure an accurate census count.

Borough President Adams is forging ahead with his own borough-wide awareness effort through his recently formed Brooklyn Complete Count Committee, which will work with civic gurus across Kings County to encourage participation.

For information about upcoming CB7 Census Committee meetings, visit the panel’s website at www1.nyc.gov/site/brooklyncb7.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.