In the News / April 2019

USCRI Erie Prepares Refugees and Immigrants for the Census

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The Erie community is in the midst of preparing for the 2020 census. In addition to gauging population, the census is used to measure American characteristics such as age, sex, race, migration, housing conditions, veteran status, language use, and poverty. The survey’s results also have a major effect in terms of what municipalities and states receive in federal funds, grants and other support, as well as how congressional districts are drawn.

This year the census comes with the controversy of a potential addition of a citizenship question, which could act as a disincentive for many immigrants to participate. However, some say that they still plan on participating, including USCRI Erie client Safwat Jarkas, who moved to Erie from war-ravaged Syria two years ago. “I’m a resident of the United States, a resident of Erie County now, and I’m supposed to do that,” said Jarkas.

It is critical that the census accurately represent the growing numbers of immigrants in Erie County, as this could radically change funding the county receives.

That is why USCRI is working hard to coordinate with Census Bureau officials, while also providing context to new Americans about the upcoming count.

“We are always teaching civic engagement and ways to integrate and participate in your community, and the census is one way to do that,” Grasinger said. “We’re educating folks on what this might look like, telling them that folks might be knocking on their doors, and why we need to count people. Why it’s important.”

Additionally, USCRI Erie will help federal officials find Erie-area census workers who speak different languages or are familiar with different cultures, which can assist with gaining trust among foreign-born residents.

Like Jarkas, Nadya Al-Dayne, 45, said she has no trepidations about the survey. Al-Dayne, originally from Iran, plans to participate in the census, and feels a certain duty to do so as well. “I appreciate the United States,” said Al-Dayne, an Erie resident for the past 10 years. “There’s better freedom and better safety.”

Hopefully, with the help of USCRI Erie, other foreign-born community members can have the same peace of mind.

Read more about Erie’s census preparation here.

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