There’s a new phone bank open in City Heights to help members of San Diego’s refugee and immigrant populations complete the census.
Advocates say answering questions about the number of people in a household may be intimidating and, likely, unfamiliar to some people within these communities.
The call center is part of a hub made up of 15 organizations that work directly with immigrant and refugee populations. Hatem Mohtaseb, a regional organizer with Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans or PANA, based in City Heights, said there are obstacles to convincing refugees to complete the census.
“Our community is dealing with trauma here in the U.S. with the Trump administration, and the weaponization of the citizenship question, for example, created a lot of fear in our community. So it made our job harder but we’re trying to do our best,” Mohtaseb said.
San Diego County is among the region that is considered the most challenging in the state of California to accurately count in the upcoming census. Workers are translating materials into more than 13 languages and are calling people within San Diego’s immigrant population to share information and answer questions about the census.
“For the refugee community this is probably the first time hearing about census or participating in the census, and that requires a lot of work and requires building a hub of trusted community messengers to engage and help our community to participate in census,” he said.
The goal is to reach 14,000 people within the next five weeks. Census data is used to determine how many seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives and how billions of federal dollars are allocated.