As the son of Puerto Rican migrants, I was raised to value the freedom of my voice.
As our nation grapples with the global pandemic of COVID-19, I’m reminded of the importance of prayer and action. Moreover, I’m all the more mindful that my voice counts, and it grows stronger each time it’s joined with those of others, particularly the voices of America’s overlooked and under-resourced. As a pastor, I firmly believe in the inherent dignity of every human being and that everyone counts. For this reason, we sought to make April 1st, Census Day, a day of galvanizing action on behalf of the millions of immigrants and residents of marginalized communities all across this country, people who struggle daily for access to better jobs, better health, better everything. These are the people who drive me to make sure the 2020 Census is accurate.
Amid COVID-19, pastors are working creatively through posting information on social media and even preaching on the census during remote worship services to spread the word that the census is here and that it’s important. We will not let a global pandemic stop us from making sure every person in this country receives the representation and resources they deserve. It’s never been easier to respond to the census by online, by phone, or mail, all from the comfort of your home. People can learn more and respond at 2020census.gov.
In the 2010 Census, 3.8 million Latinos and 3.7 million African Americans were not counted. We have this chance just once every ten years and now that it’s here, it’s essential that every person know the value of their voice, and their legally protected right to exercise it without risk or retribution.
This fight is bringing the best of America together through efforts like Faith in Public Life’s 2020 Census Faith Council, a coalition of national religious denominations and faith-based organizations leading public education drives to advocate for a fair and accurate count, and recruiting 500 Faith Census Ambassadors across the country. Ours is a simple message of truth: Todos cuentan! Everyone counts!
This census is a moment of truth for the nation. How we respond will undeniably impact our lives and our neighbors for years. Over $800 billion in federal funding will be determined by the 2020 Census, including spending for more than 100 programs like school lunches, Medicaid, Head Start, hospital funding and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP or food stamps.
In today’s political climate, whether or not information included in the census will be kept confidential is a question I get asked a lot. Many people, and especially those in communities of color, fear that the Census Bureau will share their answers with other government agencies. But rest assured that participating in the census is safe. The Census Bureau is required by law to protect any personal information and forbidden from sharing it with other agencies. The threat of a citizenship question was also eliminated last year. No family can be harmed by giving information to the census.
As these times remind us: It’s not enough to hope our lawmakers and business owners do the right thing over the next decade as they make decisions about hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding. The 2020 Census gives us a means to help them close the economic gaps that haunt so many poor people’s lives simply by speaking up and adding to the data that will shape the days to come and determine a more equitable distribution of the resources to make those days brighter.
By our voices — the voices of every man, every woman, every child — and by our faith and collective action, we can show our leaders and remind ourselves: In 2020, we are here, and we all count equally.