Access and Awareness: Multilingual Census Hotline

with Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

The census aims to count every person living in the U.S., yet language barriers exist among many communities.

Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law discusses a Census 2020 hotline that addresses questions and concerns in 11 languages.

Posted on:

March 30, 2020

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: The U.S. Census is upon us, collecting data about our nation's people, housing, economy, and communities. As the most inclusive civic activity in our country, the Census counts every person in every household in the nation. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. And joining me to discuss a new resource for those who have questions or concerns regarding participation in the Census is Kristen Clarke. She is the president and the executive director of Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Kristen, welcome.

Clarke: Hi. Thank you for having me.

Anderson: So, first -- new resource. Tell us what it is.

Clarke: This is a national Census hotline designed to provide a place where people can go to ask any question that they may have about the 2020 Census.

Anderson: So you have a whole host of people who are partnering with you on this. How did this come together? Why?

Clarke: The Census is incredibly important, but it's important that the public understand why they've got to participate and have a place that they can turn to to ask questions. We've partnered with core civil rights organizations -- NALEO, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and the Arab American Institute -- to reach hard-to-count communities across our country. We want to be that trusted source of information for any person across our country who may have questions about why they should participate in the 2020 Census.

Anderson: So it's not just questions about why people should participate, but people are calling in with challenges to participating. What are some of those, and what are you guiding people to do?

Clarke: Yeah, there are people who ask questions like, "Will my information be treated confidentially?" "Do I have to put my Social Security number on the form?" "Do I disclose some people in my house or everyone?" We want to make sure that people have accurate information so that they can participate in the Census fully armed with all of the information they need. We want to be that trusted place that people can go to to ask questions. These are for nonpartisan organizations, and we are the go-to resource for communities across our country who just may need answers to a critical question in order to fully and effectively participate in the Census.

Anderson: One of the interesting things about the hotline is that it's multilingual, and not just two or three languages. How many languages? Who is able to call in? It's pretty extensive. Clarke: Yeah. The goal is to really be accessible for anyone in the country, regardless of their race, national origin, or language status. You can call us if you speak Spanish, Bengali, Cantonese, Korean, Arabic. We are a go-to resource for communities of color across our country.

Anderson: It's amazing. And what about these Census operators who are working with you? Who are they? Do they have legal backgrounds? Clarke: Many of them are staff members at our organizations, but we also have legal volunteers who are volunteering their time to support this important effort. We want to make sure that, you know, when people call us, and you can call us from 9:00 to 5:00 Eastern Standard Time, that you're getting through to somebody who's got an answer to your question. Again, we want to be that trusted source of information for the public.

Anderson: And one more time, if people need to access this, where do they go?

Clarke: They can pick up the phone and call 888-COUNT20.

Anderson: 888-COUNT20. Kristen Clarke, thank you so much for joining us. Clarke: Thank you for having me.
Anderson: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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