ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau collects the number of people who live in this country but participation in some communities, like the Hispanic community, falls behind when it comes to filling out the Census.
“I don’t think we’re any different than most of the rest of the country,” said Jackie Colón, the Southeast director for NALEO Educational Fund. “A lot of folks are busy in their lives, as you can imagine with COVID-19 it’s not exactly a priority. So, it is our job, folks like myself with NALEO Educational Fund, to let the community know the importance of the Census.”
The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, also known as NALEO, was founded in 1976. The leadership organization is dedicated to the development and implementation of programs that promote the integration of the Latino community in the U.S.
Colón said one of their concerns is the undocumented community feels their information will be shared with other agencies like the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Colón said that is not true.
“What we really need to know is how many folks live in that home, whether you have documents or not. It is the law of the land for every single person in our country to be counted,” she said. “They’re not gonna be asking you citizenship status, they’re not gonna be asking you for Social Security.”
"The only way that you can front the fear is with information and education," Milton Valderrama, a native from Colombia said.
The experience of filling out the Census for the first time after living in Orange County for 21 years was insightful.
“The experience was great because it’s so easy. They say they take about 10 minutes but to me it takes like six or seven minutes,” Valderrama, a father of four said. He recalled during the last Census there was a lack of information for minority groups. “Ten years ago the communication to the Hispanic community was real low, I mean, not low, I say poor,” Valderrama said.
He explained he got educated about the importance of the U.S. Census by getting involved with Hispanic and non-profit entities.
“There’s no excuse to not do the Census. My advice to the Hispanic community is to get involved with the community,” he said.
That’s how he realized how filling out the Census provides a better quality of life for him and his family.
"That way we can get better schools, better hospitals, better police officers, better fire rescue," he said.
Colón explained the reason for the Census is so government funds are properly allocated within each community. This helps with infrastructure, like building roads, schools and public health care.
“The only way that’s going to happen is if each family is able to tell us how many people are in that community. That’s how we build the schools, that’s how we know the dollars that are gonna come from the federal government,” Colón said.
And with the growing Hispanic population, Colón said it's even more important to make yourself count.
"With the influx of our Puerto Rican community because of the hurricane, we have a lot of these students and we want to make sure that we're able to accommodate them," she said. "This is not a partisan issue, this is about dollars that come into our community. If it's a Latino family, if abuelita is living there, if tia is living there, we just want to know so we can make decisions in the community, educated decisions, intelligent decisions."
The Census can be responded via phone by calling 844-330-2020 or the form can be accessed online in 13 different languages.
To fill out the U.S. Census visit Census.gov.
For bilingual Spanish speakers, information can be found here.