NYC Census 2020: Why as an African New Yorker, you want to get counted even if you are undocumented

Photo credit: Isseu Diouf Campbell

The Census, mandated by the United States Constitution, occurs only every 10 years. It is used to divide among the 50 US states a pie of $650 billion in federal funding for many programs, including public education, childcare, hospitals, affordable housing, roads, bridges, and more. The greater the number of residents the City or State has, the more money it will receive. The Census is also critical for determining each state’s representation in Congress. Your congressmen’s or congresswomen’s job is to serve you. It’s like having your personal griot going to Congress to advocate for you. The more you have, the better it is.

Think about it this way.

In New York City, it is very difficult to survive without a job. As an African New Yorker, you wake up every day to go to work, so that at the end of the month you can pay all your bills, (rent, food, phone, tuition, childcare…) and send money to Africa. Based on the salary you receive, you know pretty much each month if you are able to pay all your bills or not. If you have more bills than money coming in, some of those bills won’t be paid. It is the same thing for City services. Let’s assume that the number of residents is the number of bills the City has to pay every 10 years, because The Census happens every 10 years. If The Census says New York City has 8 million residents, because only 8 million have filled out The Census, instead of 9 or 10 million, the amount of money the City will receive, and the number of congressmen or congresswomen assigned, will be based on 8 million, not 9 or 10. So chances are everything will not be paid for. If the money is not there, the City can’t pay for it. And if it happens to be a service you need that should be provided by the City, well you won’t have it.

Or here is another way of thinking about it. As African New Yorkers, even for those who cook every day, you have been to an African restaurant at least once. Let’s assume that you go to the restaurant, tell the waiter or waitress that you are by yourself and order a plate of Jollof rice. When he or she brings the plate, ten people are sitting at your table. Unless you order more, many will leave that restaurant hungry.

Also being undocumented might deter you from participating. You want to stay as low-key as possible. The idea that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can locate you and deport you, ending abruptly your American dream, can be overwhelming. But the goal of The Census is to know how many people are in the city and the country in general, not who is documented or not. The information you provide is confidential and will only be used for that purpose. And there are no questions about immigration or citizenship on The Census 2020.

In 2010, New York City’s self-response rate to the census was just 61.9%, whereas the national average was 76%. In many neighborhoods with predominantly Black populations across the city, the response rates were even lower, falling in the 40-to-50-percent range.

So as African New Yorkers, let’s make sure that we overwhelmingly participate in The Census so we can get the services we need and make sure that there will be enough jollof rice for everybody!

What kind of questions are on the 2020 Census?
– How many people are living or staying at your home
– Their sex, age, race, and ethnicity
– Whether your home is owned or rented
– Your home address

The 2020 Census does NOT ask about your :
– Immigration or citizenship status
– Income
– Social Security Number
– Bank account
– Credit Card

Here is a sample of the bilingual paper questionnaire used during the 2020 Census.

To get counted, visit: You will need to enter the 12-digit Census ID found in the materials the US Census mailed to you or left at your door.
To complete the 2020 Census by phone, please call:
English – 844-330-2020
Arabic – 844-416-2020
French – 844-494-2020
Haitian Creole – 844-477-2020
Portuguese – 844-474-2020
Telephone Display Device (TDD) – 844-467-2020

And again, the 2020 Census does not ask about your immigration or citizenship status, Income or social security number. If you suspect fraud, call 800-923-8282 to speak to a local Census Bureau representative and verify what’s real. You can also email details to


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