Census could help determine number of J'cans in US

By Harold G Bailey
Observer writer

Monday, March 18, 2019

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New York USA — Responding to apprehension and in some instances fear among the Jamaican community here, Diaspora leaders across the US are moving with speed to promote full participation by Jamaicans in next year's US census count.

“It is one of the issues which were discussed at the Diaspora leadership summit in Georgia last year,” Wayne Golding, who heads the Diaspora Advisory board for the southern US, told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.

Leaders believe that the census will have the spin-off benefit of making it possible to get a reasonably accurate count of the number of Jamaicans in the US, where estimates are all over the place.

He said that community leaders and organisations across the country are being sensitised about the importance of participating in the census count, noting that in the past Jamaicans and other minority groups had shown ambivalence towards the census exercise.

“We expect the challenge to be greater now, given the current political atmosphere and the immigration policies which currently prevail,” Golding said.

He noted that the census next year will include a question about nationality, and that he and other leaders in the Jamaican community are urging “our people to ensure that they respondto that and all other questions.”

“The nationality question is important as it will provide a true

sense of the number of Jamaicans who are here, “ Golding explained. He was at pains to point out the census count was not needed for nefarious reasons, but for proper planning and provision of public amenities.

Golding and others like Jackie Watson, president and CEO of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia Inc, acknowledged that the most challenging obstacle to overcome in getting people to participate “is a question regarding one's citizenship status”, which is proposed to be included on the questionnaire next year.

That matter is currently before the United States Supreme Court, after it was struck down as being unconstitutional by two lower courts.

“We are anxiously awaiting the court's ruling on that matter,” Watson said in an interview. She said that people “are already apprehensive”, and that a “huge fear factor exists among our people about providing census data”.

Adding to the challenge is “that next year the census form can be filled out online”, said Watson, who fears that many within the Jamaican and Caribbean communities may not take advantage of that situation.

Current US laws prohibit the Census Bureau from sharing census data with any government agency, individuals, or organisations. Watson said that was one reason why

“educating our people in an effort to ease some of the fears is crucial”.

Watson said that some members of the Diaspora community would be attending a two-day forum with representatives of the US Census Bureau, which is set for April 9 and 10 in Florida, as part of the push to get people to participate.

Community leaders in Connecticut have also planned a forum on the theme: 'The Future of The American Dream — Perspective on the 2020 Census for Immigrants'.The forum, which takes place on May 1, will be addressed by Dr Clarire Nelson, founder and CEO of the Institute of Caribbean Studies.

These moves to get maximum participation in the exercise form part of a greater effort by the Diaspora to mobilise the Jamaican community into a cohesive force of influence and power.

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