Community centers work with immigrants to participate in census

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - While the U.S. Census Bureau gears up for its 2020 count, community centers in Lincoln are also preparing. Across the country, some immigrants are facing the U.S. Census for the first time, and community workers are trying to make sure everyone understands the importance of being counted.

A student in the citizenship class learns about the U.S. Census for the first time.

For many, learning about the U.S. Census for the first time can be intimidating.

Some immigrants in Lincoln have different cultural views on the censuses, sometimes due to events that happened in their own country.

"The government needs to count how many boys you have in-home, and what's their age so they can take them to the war," said Khamisa Abdalla, speaking of her home country, Sudan. She now works as the Women's Program Manager at the Asian Community and Cultural Center. "I never used to tell them how many boys I actually had."

Abdalla has 6 sons.

Now, she's heading the ACCC's effort to make sure people are participating in the 2020 Census.

"They're a person, you're supposed to count them. There isn't a benefit or them if you don't record them."

Some in Lincoln's immigrant community are afraid to give out their information, for fear of who that can be given to.

"There's a lot of misinformation of what the census is for," said Lee Kreimer, the Family Resources Program Manager at the ACCC. "(We need to share) how the information shared with the Census Bureau might be used."

These community workers said it's important for everyone to be counted for several reasons: it ensures Nebraska receives accurate federal funding based on population, and it determines the state's seats in the Senate.

"This is relevant to every single person regardless of their status, citizen or not," said Kreimer. "Anything else that the Census Data is used for applies to literally every single person."

Now, the ACCC is kicking off its campaign to educate its clients about the census. Workers will be teaching about it in their citizenship classes, sewing classes, community potlucks, by bringing in experts, going on home visits and by talking about it in any other program to ensure their clients know: they count and deserve to be counted.

Abdalla said she's grateful to finally have a voice and be counted.

"You have rights also, to have a benefit. To have that right, you have to give your voice."