November 19, 2009 | Daily Herald | Original Article

Wheeling to focus on ethnic groups, immigrants in 2010 census

By Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald Staff

Published: 11/16/2009 12:08 AM | Updated: 11/16/2009 10:02 AM

Wheeling leaders are urging residents, especially people in ethnic and immigrant communities, to step up and be counted in the 2010 census.

Population figures dictate how much state and federal money communities are entitled to each year.

"That's why I think it's so important that we really work to get everybody registered so we have an accurate amount of peoples," Wheeling Village President Judy Abruscato said.

"Like all of our neighboring communities, we now have many difficult challenges due to the economic circumstances."

Village officials plan to solicit the help of other government entities, such as the library, park and school districts, nonprofit community groups, resident commissions and faith-based organizations to get the word out about the financial benefits of the census, and dispel fears within the ethnic and immigrant communities.

Traditionally, those groups are underrepresented in population counts.

According to the Census Bureau's 2006-2008 American Community Survey estimates, more than 30 percent of Wheeling's total population of 35,924 residents is Latino; 14 percent are nonwhite and 11 percent are Asian.

Abruscato said village officials will send a clear invitation to those ethnic and immigrant groups - whether individuals are here legally or illegally.

"They don't have to be a citizen (to participate)," she said. "I don't know how many are (illegal), but they don't have to be afraid. There's not anybody looking for them; not anybody looking to throw them out. If they are living here, they need to be counted."

On its Web site, the Census Bureau stresses the fact that the 2010 census form does not ask about a person's legal status or require Social Security numbers.

The form is made up of 10 questions, including name, sex, age, date of birth, Hispanic origin - if you are Hispanic, the form asks for your home country - race, household relationship, and whether the person owns or rents their residence. The Bureau asserts that all information is kept confidential.

Wheeling Senior Services Director Shari Huizar said the village is taking its cue from the Census Bureau, which is trying a more inclusive approach than during the 2000 census and reaching out to ethnic groups through television and radio messages in multiple languages.

"We've been concentrating on five key languages, Russian, Polish, Spanish, Korean and Tagalog," Huizar said. "I'm hoping that we can engage leaders from all communities to really get behind the census."

Yet, finding leaders within those groups to help spread the word also is the challenge.

"This is kind of our first real attempt in getting people involved," Huizar said. "We're hoping through the faith community to find leaders and through the education systems reach as many families as we can."

Wheeling will target its message to residents through bilingual fliers in English and Spanish inserted in water bills, street banners and informational tables throughout the community.

"We should be able to reach out to everyone that comes any place," Abruscato said. "We're hoping the effort pays off."

The Census Bureau's survey process will begin in April 2010. For more information, visit 2010census.gov.