Friday, March 12, 2010



For a very long time now, we have been arguing about the number 36,000 binational couples and how that is inaccurate. We have a chance to change that this year and make sure that the number that will be reported is accurate. (BTW, for those who have no idea where 36,000 came from, it was derived and estimated from the 2000 census and census is counted every 10 years)

In the next few weeks, all households in US of A will be getting a census forms to complete (some of you, about 3 million household, might be sent a longer form). I would urge everyone here to accurately depict your relationship - ie, if you are legally married, if you are in a domestic partnership or if you just lived together... please do fill in the survey accurately SO IT’S VERY CLEAR THAT THERE ARE TWO SAME-SEX ADULTS, ONE CITIZEN, ONE NOT.

According to Queer the Census (a project of the Task Force), It is also critical to have the immigrant fill it out as head of household so the household counts as being part of that ethnic group and national origin.

The task force is also handling out stickers "Queer the Census" for you to sticker on the envelope as you sent the survey in and their reason is simple:
The census tells the story of who we are as a nation, and that includes LGBT people — but only when we participate, and only when we're fully counted. Thanks to the collection of unmarried partner data, a more complete picture of who we are has emerged. For example, we know that:
  • Same-sex couples live in 99% of all US Counties.
  • LGBT parents live in 97% of all US Counties.
  • Black and Latino same-sex couples are raising children at almost the same rates as their heterosexual peers, but on lower incomes ($10,000/yr less).
Still, there is no question on the 2010 census that asks individuals if they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender — and LGBT questions are not included in almost all other major federal surveys.

It's a big problem. The census, which counts everyone living in the United States every ten years, provides the data that is used to determine funding and policy priorities at the national and state level.

Being counted isn’t just a numbers game, but a question of whether the LGBT community gets access to the resources that support our health, economic well-being, safety and families. The LGBT community must be visible--and that means participating in the census, but it also means being counted fully.

You can read more about how to answer the census as accurately as you can here:
There has also been some concerns about whether the census is completely confidential and this is the response I received from Asian Law Caucus' Census coordinator, Carlo De La Cruz
  • Should we advice binational couples where one partner is undocumented to complete the survey and disclose those information? (It could be the foreign partner is listed as head of household, or just listed as partners....)

    Yes, neither the short form (the 10 Question Survey) or the long form (the American Community Survey) ask of an individual’s immigration status. Only the ACS, which will be mailed to a smaller sample of the population, has a question regarding citizenship—but no relation to current immigration status. It’s important to know that compliance with the Census is mandated by law, and is enforceable with a fine of up to 100$ for the short survey, and 5,000$ for the American Community Survey.

  • Do they specifically asked about whether you are documented? Or do they just ask which country you are from? From the census's website that information is not collected... but I read somewhere that there is a long form... and the sample on the census' site is only a single page.

    Question number 9 on the short form ask for the individual’s ethnic background, but NOT for country of origin or immigration or citizenship status. Again, even the long form only asks for an individual’s citizenship, and doesn’t ask about specific immigration. While the short form will be mailed to every household in America, the long form will only be mailed to 3 million households this year, about 250,000 houses a month. The houses are chosen at random through a statistical equation.

  • How confidential is confidential? Census has been used in the past to track japanese americans for internment during WWII... can they legally do that to the immigrant community?

    You’re quite right to ask ‘how confidential, is confidential.’ Although the Census Bureau frequently posts messages about the confidentiality of the Census information taken, many civil rights groups have come to learn that political speeches and website postings do not carry the full force of the law. Luckily, the Confidentiality provisions of the Census, DO have the full force of the law, as illustrated by Title 13 Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution. Section 9 prohibits the use of Census information for any purpose other than statistical purposes. Section 9 also prohibits the publication of any data where any individual can be identified. These provisions have been tested in a number of supreme court cases including: Baldridge v. Shapiro, 455 U.S. 345, 354-355 (1982) and United States v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 21 F.R.D. 568, 569-570 (S.D.N.Y. 1958). Both state that information collected by the Census Bureau is considered privileged, and is not accessible to any federal agency, federal or local court, local government agency, private agency/agent (other than the individual requesting their own form).

    Census Bureau employees must also take a lifetime oath to protect the information they collect, breaking this oath is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000, 5 years in prison, or both. To date, no Census Bureau employee has been prosecuted under charges of disclosure of confidential information.

    More recently, two laws that affect the civil rights and immigrant community have come into question, especially how they relate to the Census confidentiality protections: The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 & the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001. The Department of Justice has issued legal opinions on both laws as they relate to the Census confidentiality provisions. In a recent letter from Assistant Attorney General, Ronald Weich, sent to leaders of the Congressional Black, Latino, and Asian American Caucuses stated:

    “The long history of congressional enactments protecting such information from such disclosure, as well as the established precedents of the courts and this Department, supports the view that if Congress intended to override these protections it would say so clearly and explicitly. Because no provision of the Patriot Act, including Section 215, indicates such a clear and explicit intent on the part of Congress, the Department's view is that no provisions of that Act override applicable Census Act provisions banning the Commerce Secretary and other covered individuals from disclosing protected census information possessed by the Commerce Department.”

    In other words, the Census confidently provisions are not affected by any provisions in IIRIRA, USA PATRIOT Act, or Freedom of Information Act.

    In short, it would take a deliberate and direct act of Congress to override the confidentiality protections of the U.S. Census, and even then it has been the long standing precedent of the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice, that the confidentiality provision of the Census are solid.

    The historical event you referred to, the Internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, and the related Census Data in the collection, detainment, and identification of Japanese Americans is indeed a dark part of the Bureau’s history. In 1942, congress authorized the Second War Powers Act, which authorized the release of data to identify the neighborhoods of Japanese Americans in California, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Arkansas.

    At the time no law was violated, as the Second War Powers Act authorized the release of Census data, but the law lapsed in 1947. In 2002, Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt apologized to the Japanese American Community. Prewitt stated that a similar breach would be impossible today: “[I]mportant safeguards to protect against the misuse of Census tabulations have been instituted, notably stronger legal provisions to protect data confidentiality and the Census Bureau’s introduction of disclosure avoidance techniques.”

    Further safeguards have been put in place to insure that no statistical data and detrimentally harm any community, including a special tabulations of ‘vulnerable, at-risk, or targeted’ communities in the United States.

    Various civil rights and legal groups have tested the strength of these provisions, and the validly of the Bureau’s statements that no such breach of information has happened or been considered since 1942. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) has issued a number of Freedom of Information Acts (FOIAs) to discern if any documents discussed the release or use of Confidential information collected by the Census Bureau. To date, no request has produced any document that shows any kind of communication between federal agencies about the possible use of confidential Census data. In short, no FOIA request has produced any documents that contradict the Bureau’s stated commitment to the confidentiality and protection of Census data.

    (emphasis, my own) It’s also important to note, that undocumented same-sex couples have a particular stake in being counted in the Census this year. For the undocumented community, the Census form is one of the few federal documents that allows an individual to prove residency, length of stay, and age in any naturalization or amnesty process. For the LGBT community, the US Census will publish statistics on Same-Sex couples, and married and unmarried spouses living in the United States.
So when you get the census forms, please complete them and send them in. If you have more questions, please let me know and I will try to get answers from ALC.

Thanks goes to The Task Force & Courage Campaign for embarking on a campaign to make sure the LGBT Community is counted properly and to Asian Law Caucus for providing Out4Immigration with the answers to some of our questions.

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1 comment:

Calveen said...

This is all a mute point for me, as an American Citizen living in exile with my British partner. I've already been told I will NOT be counted in the census, since I'm no longer living within US borders, not to mention counting my partner and/or our relationship.
What this all means to me is, you're queer, get out of here so we'll never have to worry about you.
KM in the UK