Census 2020 and Asian Pacific Americans: Accuracy Counts

with Terry Minnis of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - AAJC

More than 23 million Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders live in the U.S. Terry Minnis of Asian Americans Advancing Justice shares how her organization is advocating for a fair and accurate Census count of the Asian Pacific American community.

Posted on:

Mar 30, 2020

Hosted by: Ellee Pai Hong
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Hong: The US Census Bureau estimates that 16 million people were either not counted or incorrectly counted in the 2010 census, many of those from marginalized communities. The Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities have been under-counted for decades, disadvantaging families, communities, and neighborhoods. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Ellee Pai Hong. The 2020 census is rapidly approaching. Terry Ao Minnis, Director of Census and Voting Programs for Asian Americans Advancing Justice, or AAJC, joins me for a discussion on this topic. Terry, thank you so much for coming in.

Minnis: Thank you for having me.

Hong: Appreciate it. The Asian-American population -- this population has been under-counted for decades. Why is that so?

Minnis: So, for the Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander community, there are a number of reasons why they have a tendency to be missed more often than those in the mainstream community. One reason, of course, are language barriers. We have communities that are very -- immigrate to this country and/or have a background or history of speaking languages other than English. Asian-Americans have a rate of limited English proficiency of about 1/3 of the community who have some difficulties with the English language. For Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders, about 13.5%. So, that's something where not getting information in their language can really impact their ability to participate. Another reason is, there's a general mistrust of government, and that, unfortunately, has been growing and heightening certainly within the last several years. So, there are questions about, "Why is the government asking this information?" whether that's distrust of government that comes with them from their home countries and/or just mistrust due to some of the things that have happened and some of the rhetoric that's being spread around our communities today.

Hong: There's a couple components to your answer that I want to address, in terms of the mistrust of government. During the 1940s, the census was used to incarcerate Japanese-Americans into internment camps. So, there's evidence there for that mistrust.

Minnis: Absolutely. That was a very dark time in our country's history. And one thing to keep in mind is that, unfortunately, while a very morally reprehensible act, it was not technically illegal at the time. The confidentiality protections that we had in place at that time were not as strong as they are today, and there was actually legislation that was passed -- the War Powers Act -- that superceded what confidentiality provisions and protections were in place at the time. Coming out of that incident, we actually have seen the strengthening of Title XIII, the law that protects census data, to the point where it's really the strongest protections around confidentiality that we have today. So, I think that we know that what we have today is not what we had back then. And so, what happened back then cannot happen today.

Hong: So, you really want folks to take that census, answer every single question, because the stakes are really high, in terms of every single person participating in the census.

Minnis: Absolutely. It drives over $800 billion annually to states from federal government dollars. It really helps, whether it's federal governments, whether it's nonprofit organizations, whether it's local, state government's plan. We all have limited resources. We're all trying to figure out how best to serve those who have the greatest needs. And we need accurate data to be able to do that. It allows us to pinpoint where problems exist. It allows us to problem-solve and really make effective and efficient use of the resources we have to make sure that we are all serving the needs of every American.

Hong: And it also determines where Congressional seats go. I know, during the 2010 census, 12 seats were switched over, and power shifted because of it.

Minnis: Absolutely. I mean, the census is taken, as directed through the Constitution, for purposes or reapportionment of the seats, as you said. And that data then flows to how districts are drawn through the redistricting process, both Congressional seats, state seats, local seats, school boards. It really dictates how our government can be responsive and representative of our communities.

Hong: Now, where can folks go to find out more information about this?

Minnis: They can visit our web site at countusin2020.org.

Hong: Awesome. Thank you so much, Terry. Appreciate your time today. -

Minnis: Thank you.

Hong: And thanks to you for watching. For more great conversations with leaders in your area and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com.

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