Canvassing efforts by U.S. Census Bureau will put workers in neighborhoods, causing concern for immigrant communities

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Heads up! People should soon start to see U.S. Census Bureau "listers" going door-to-door in Bay Area neighborhoods, with a laptop in hand.

The bureau is sending people out now through October, to verify addresses ahead of the 2020 Census.

In the South Bay, some say the current political climate has caused plenty of concern. Adding, in-person, door-to-door verification could prove to be a bit difficult in immigrant communities.

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"We're constantly reminding our immigrant community not to open the doors to people they don't recognize or don't know," Jeremy Barousse told ABC 7 News. "And here we have census canvassers out confirming addresses. So, it does present sort of a unique situation."

Barousse is the Director of Civic Engagement for the Bay Area's Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network, also known as SIREN.

Addresses being verified in this current count will determine where the bureau will mail instructions and send workers in 2020.

However, if fear or concern keep people from answering doors, an under-count could mean less Federal funding for Santa Clara County.

Money, of course, is allocated to states based on the number of people counted.

"We really need to mobilize everybody to reassure our very vulnerable community members that this is not a count to be afraid of," Santa Clara Co. Supervisor Susan Ellenberg explained. "It does not put you on a list that leads to deportation. Not even a permitting issue regarding whether your garage is up to code."

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She explained the County has launched a massive outreach and education effort with partners in community-based organizations, local governments, and faith-based organizations.

Nick Kuwada with Santa Clara County's 2020 Census Program said the County invested more than $3-million for research, planning, education and outreach purposes ahead of the 2020 Census.

An important move as Santa Clara County is already on a list of hard-to-count communities across the country.

"I think we're the 9th hardest county to count in the country, Supervisor Ellenberg added. "Due to the number of children under five, immigrants, folks in high density housing, multi-generational housing, and unfortunately our large number of unhoused residents as well."

County documents shared with ABC7 News showed the County submitted more than 77,000 addresses to the Census Bureau just last year. These addresses were previously missing or invalid the bureau's file.

Those addresses will need to be verified.

"They're looking for every kind of residence," Ellenberg told ABC7 News. "Which would include converted garages, accessory dwelling units, or 'granny apartments' as some people call them."

She and Barousse at SIREN explained they understand the apprehension from the immigrant community.

It's one reason Ellenberg is encouraging people to check their mailboxes and e-mail inboxes for a Census questionnaire. She said completing the questionnaire could skip the door knock.

"The first pass is to try to get as many passive turn-ins as we can," she explained. "The Census workers will start to knock on doors when the deadline for sending those Census packets in has passed, and we haven't received them."

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Barousse told ABC7 News, "The concerns and fears are legitimate, and we want to make sure that we're doing our due diligence to get the word out to let people know that this is part of the Census process."

If someone shows up at your door, officials say to check for I.D. badges, black canvas bags and laptops, all with the Census 2020 logo visible.

"The U.S. Census Bureau is embarking on a routine verification process to ensure that our county's address list is complete and accurate," County of Santa Clara Deputy County Executive David Campos said in a press release.

Campos oversees the Division of Equity and Social Justice, which includes the Office of Immigrant Relations.

"Census workers throughout the United States are working on this effort," Campos said. "We urge all residents to cooperate with Census workers because it will help ensure households are not overlooked in the counting process and that we attain our goal of a complete Census count in 2020."

This door-to-door verification process is expected to last through October.
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