By Harvey I. Barkin
FilAm Star EIC

SAN FRANCISCO – Ethnic Media Services (EMS) and the Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA) last September 27 held a press brief at the World Affairs Council in Sutter Street to drum up concern for the 2020 Census.

A panel of Census experts and community and youth activists addressed an assembled group of mostly ethnic media members about “Why counting kids matter most in the 2020 Census.”

OCEIA 2020 Census Project Manager Robert Clinton said that “young children (age 0-4) was the most undercounted group” and “Children broadly (age 0-18) were consistently undercounted” both in the 2010 Census.

He also said that since the 2010 Census, the undercount of children grew from 1.4 percent to 4.6 percent even as the undercount of adults over 18 years old has not gotten worse.

According to Children’s Partnership President Mayra Alvarez, the undercount of children is “critical.” She said that a million children were undercounted in the US and up to 100,000 alone in California were missed in the 2010 Census. Alvarez said the undercounted included Hispanics, other people of color and the undocumented.

Every 10 years, the US Constitution requires that every person in the country be counted to determine how billions of Federal dollars get spent for public services (schools, hospitals, roads) and how political power is distributed (congressional representation). Alvarez said that $3 billion is at risk in California.

She also said at least ¾ of California are communities of color and that in most families, there’s at least one immigrant parent.

According to Alvarez, the diversity alone is not the challenge. She reported that a lot of the misinformation comes from the prevailing anti-immigrant sentiment and confusion over which programs immigrants are eligible. Plus, the housing crisis wherein as much as three families live in one house. There’s also the complex situation of transient foster children in between homes. And “the intention of the administration not to invest on the 2020 Census campaign.”

Director of Advocacy at Chinese for Affirmative Action Hong Mei Pang explained, for example, that in the 2000 and 2010 Census, language access included Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Russian that have been eliminated from the 2020 Census.

The 2020 Census is going to be the first digital census. Pang said there will be a digital gap because the paper questionnaire won’t be given out automatically.

Partnership Specialist at the US Census Bureau for 2020 Son Le commented, “Census is a local concern. We are not counted as if we don’t exist.”

Alive & Free Operations Manager Andre Aikins was formerly a math teacher in Oakland and works with children at risk. He said that over 90 percent of kids he worked with don’t know what the Census is and that “giving them paper or talking to them about it won’t work.”

“They’re already tapping on their iPhones before they could write on paper. They need colors, music. And they want it right now. And they thinks adults have done a poor job in motivating them.”

Pang cited the AAPI residents in this city. She said the Census Bureau in 2018 estimated the number of student population in San Francisco at 118,000. But that the number is closer to 132,000.

San Francisco Unified School District’s Christina Wong said in 2015, the student population increased and that 1/3 are English learners and that 43 percent of them speak languages other than English.

Wong stressed the urgency of getting an accurate count in the 2020 Census because of the title 1 Federal grant that focuses on supporting schools for the low-income, the National School Lunch program and the Special Education fund of $159M for individualized and special care for special students.

Alvarez said that the next census would be in 2030 and the opportunity to take care of children would be gone. Pang said, “Kids who grow up in the next 10 years will not meet their potential.”

About $2M for 30 organizations was set aside for the outreach program. There would also be advise information to trusted messengers like immigrant rights organizations. Not to mention canvassing, door-to-door campaigns and phone banking.

But tapping directly into the soul of the issue is OCEIA’s and EMS’s “Why my family counts in the 2020 Census” creative writing, poetry and arts contest. High-school and college-age (14 to 21 years old) who live in San Francisco can join.

Contestants can write a 400-word essay, create a 2-minute video/audio rap or spoken word clip or create painting, graffiti, mural about their family. The creative work must identify their family and where they live. It must also explain why counting every member of the family matters to gain an accurate picture of the people who live in this city.

Entry form can be accessed at Entries must be submitted before December 1, 2019.

Eight first place winners and eight second place winners will be chosen. Cash prizes of $500 will be given to first pacers and $250 to second placers.