Census canvassing begins in Chicago, focusing on immigrant communities

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Census outreach leaders held a kickoff Wednesday, talking about their efforts to complete the count as canvassing began in Chicago for the 2020 census.

Sporting yellow vests, people representing dozens of community organizations began to canvas the Pilsen neighborhood to educate residents about the census.

"We really need to get this right in general, but in Illinois we have the sixth-highest population of people considered hard to count," said Maria Fitzsimmons, census director for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Immigrant communities are among the hardest to count.

"There is still a lot of fear, a lot of mistrust in the community, so that is going to be our biggest challenge, getting people to open up to us and actually listening," said Anel Sancen, Mujeres Latinas en Accion.

"There are different barriers with language, not understanding what it does and how we benefit from participating, so yes, there is a lot of work to do," said Youngwoon Han, a community organizer with HANA Center.

Census forms are not available to fill out until March 12. Community groups plan to use the coming months to help people understand how federal funds for health care, education, roads and congressional representation all are determined by the count.

"It doesn't matter your immigration status, it doesn't matter if you have a history of incarceration, none of it matters if you participate," Fitzsimmons said.

To get everyone to participate, the U.S. Census Bureau is dispatching what are being called trusted messengers - people who live and work in the community.

"We are organizations that are in communities, they have the trust with us already because we've always been out, they know us, we've knocked on their doors before for various other issues," Sancen said.

And they'll continue to knock on doors until everyone in their neighborhood fills out the form.

You have until the end of June to participate in the 2020 census.
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