April 13, 2010 | WMBF News | Original Article

2010 Census works to increase Latino participation

SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) - With only four days left to mail in 2010 Census forms, workers are making one last push to increase participation rates.  

Roberto Belen has been working for the 2010 Census, focusing specifically on increasing participation by the Latino community.

Belen says it is important to get the word out because a low participation by Latino households could have negative effects on the allocation of resources down the road.

"If we have this part of the population that is undercounted, then the leadership that is asking for resources to help this community are not going to get it," he explained, "Because in paper we are only four percent. When in reality we might be 12, sometimes even 15 percent of the entire population of the state."

Belen says concerns about South Carolina's political stance on Immigration Reform is keeping some people from taking part in the census.

"The other problem is that they have the assumption that if they get representation, or extra representation for the state which might happen in this census, that will be another vote against immigration reform," Belen said.

To raise awareness about the importance of the census, Belen has been reaching out to community groups, churches, and even English language course instructors to get their help.

Kathy Mishoe has made it a point to explain the census to the students in her ESL course in Horry County.

"Most of them, they are very trusting of their teachers," Mishoe explained. "So we felt that it was important to communicate to them that it was not something that was meant to be threatening."

Mishoe says the greatest misunderstandings seemed to come as a result of the language barrier.

"They seemed to be very comfortable once they see the information translated into their language," she said.

While some states with high concentrations of Hispanic populations saw mass mailings of bilingual 2010 Census forms, only a very limited number of communities received forms in both English and Spanish in South Carolina.

Edgar Lopez, a student in the class, understands the importance of filling out the form, but says that for some people a mistrust of the government can keep them from sending it in.

"We see the information on TV, we listen to the radio, newspapers, but some people ignore the information because these people don't like to put information on some paper for the government," Lopez said.

Belen says it can be particularly concerning for the undocumented immigrants.

"The undocumented are terrified of the authorities, the government," Belen said. "To be known that they're here."

It has been his job to educate the Latino population across 17 counties in South Carolina about the importance and security of the Census, including the fact that the information given to the Census Bureau is safeguarded for 72 years and cannot be given out.

"It is in the interest of the Hispanic community to be counted because then the leadership of the Hispanics can ask for the things that we need," Belen explained, saying that better participation rates mean more funding which will have a positive impact on everyone living in the Palmetto state.

Telephone Questionnaire Assistance (TQA)

  • English - 1-866-872-6868
  • Chinese: 1-866-935-2010
  • Korean: 1-866-955-2010
  • Russian: 1-866-965-2010
  • Spanish: 1-866-928-2010
  • Vietnamese: 1-866-945-2010
  • TDD (Telephone Display Device for the hearing impaired):
  • Puerto Rico (in English): 1-866-939-2010
  • Puerto Rico (in Spanish): 1-866-929-2010