LocationAlhambra , CA
The Census 2020 deadline has been postponed to Oct. 31 by a worldwide pandemic, but those who are tasked with counting the country’s population are still pushing forward.
The census is mandated by the Constitution, requiring the U.S. Census Bureau to count the population of the 50 states and five territories – Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This count is used to determine daily services – hospitals, money for schools, road repairs and more – and those services can only support the growth of a community if the Census Bureau has an accurate picture of that growth.
For example: There are 20 people at a dinner and the person cooking asks how many are waiting. Only five answer – others aren’t paying attention, don’t speak the same language, are scared to say they want to eat or don’t think they have to answer. Now there is only enough food on the table for five people, even though there are still 20 people at the dinner.
The information the census collects to allocate resources is used in the same way.
Those resources include the 435 U.S. House of Representatives in U.S. Congress. Each seat, in theory, represents the same number of people in the United States, but each state must have at least one. That’s why California – the most populous state of 40 million people – has 53 seats, and states with the lowest populations, like Wyoming’s 578,00 people, have only one seat.
If California is undercounted and other states are not, California will lose congressional seats to those who demonstrate growth through the census. The congressional seat lost is determined by the area with the least growth – usually the undercounted areas.
On Thursday morning, 27th Congressional District Rep. Judy Chu talked with Alhambra Unified students over Zoom from her home in Monterey Park, as Congress is working remotely unless they are needed in Washington for a vote.
Alhambra High School history, economics and government teacher José Sanchez is teaching a summer school class. He invited the congresswoman to a 30-minute conversation with his students from Mark Keppel, San Gabriel and Alhambra high schools.
His students have been studying census data, debating the inclusion of a citizenship question on the census and other issues related to government and equitable access, like education, immigration or wages.
Chu opened her talk by saying that since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, the country is having a “sorely needed conversation about systemic racial inequality in America. And that’s meant understanding that many city and government programs throughout history were designed to disadvantage communities of color.”
She says the census plays a role in those same programs, and though it is written in the constitution that all must be counted, people of color have always been undercounted in U.S. history, going back to when slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person.
Chu touched on the access issues Asian and Pacific Islander communities face, including language barriers and the effects of President Trump’s attempt to include a citizenship question.
“I knew that they were doing it deliberately as a way to depress the turnout of immigrants to respond; it was a way to intimidate immigrants and I’m sure glad that the Supreme Court saw through this,” Chu said.
The San Gabriel Valley is an area of Southern California with a high proportion of immigrant families.
“We need to make sure that everyone knows that immigrant communities are safe if they complete the census.”
Chu reminded students that a representative’s vote could be the difference in passing a bill on police reform, gun violence or electoral college reform.
She touched on one additional importance of keeping the 27th district – Asian Pacific Islander (API) representation. Chu was the first Chinese American elected to congress, in 2009. Now, she says, there have been great strides – 28 API congress members – but it still only represents half of the percentage of API immigrants and Americans in the United States.
“[Filling out the census is] one of the most impactful things you can do to help you and others around you,” Chu said.
The census asks for information like your age, gender, race and ethnicity and the number of people in your household.
It will not ask your citizenship status, social security number or banking information.
If you have not filled out the census, you can go online to 2020census.gov, call the hotline at 844-330-2020 or answer by mail – the paper forms have begun to arrive at households who have not yet answered the census.
If you have moved, lost your census invitation or need additional language help, go online.