Why Asian Americans Should Care About the Early Census Deadline

by Kathay Feng

I live in San Gabriel, CA, where more than half the people were born outside of the US. My neighbors include families who immigrated from Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and China. When my daughter went to elementary school, so many parents were newcomers – but not a single person in the front office spoke their languages. I was born in the US, so a lot of moms shared their frustrations with me and asked for help.


In America, numbers matter. How many parents are newcomers? What percentage of families speak Chinese as their mother tongue? How many families have school-aged children?


When we were able to present these numbers to the School Board, and encourage parents to speak up, the School Board listened and worked with the principal to hire new staff who were bilingual. Our elementary school now has a Principal who speaks Vietnamese, staff who speak Chinese, and we celebrate Lunar New Year. We made those changes by speaking up and showing our numbers.


In America, that starts with the 2020 Census. Have you answered the 2020 Census yet? If you care about good schools, small business loans, and enough equipment for our hospitals, please answer the 2020 Census.


Here’s what you need to know: everyone needs to fill out the census. Even if you are a non- citizen…It’s private. And It matters. In California, if immigrants don’t complete the Census, we may lose a seat in Congress, we may lose money for our schools and hospitals, and we may lose our voice in America.


The census is important for so many different reasons, it is about making sure your voice is valued. Government uses census numbers to know how many people live in your community and where to allocate your tax dollars. Whether government investment comes back to your community in the form of school support, or fire trucks, or small business loans depends on an accurate count of how many people are in your community. More than $1.5 trillion in federal resources comes from census derived statistics.


There have been a lot of politics played with the census this year, and some political leaders want to remove immigrants from the census count. But the U.S. Constitution says our country must count every person. Presidents Reagan, Carter, Bush I and II and Obama all stood up for the principle that the census counts all people, regardless of our immigration status. We must raise our voices now, and say, We Count!


The simplest and bravest act you can take for your family and community is to fill out the census form. Not sure where to start? There are three ways to respond:


  • Go online and fill out gov
  • Fill out the paper form. You will get a form by mail from the Census Bureau if you have not responded yet.
  • Call the Census Bureau at 844-330-2020 (English);

Chinese (Mandarin) 844-391-2020; Chinese (Cantonese) 844-398-2020;

Vietnamese 844-461-2020; Thai 844-330-2020; Khmer 844-330-2020

Korean: 844-392-2020, Tagalog: 844-478-2020, Japanese: 844-460-2020

As an Asian American, I can tell you that we need to stand together or we risk weakening the very foundation of our nation. The census is how we push back against the “divide and conquer” tactics of partisan extremists, and how we live up to the final words of our national anthem, “the land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.”