On the afternoon of May 3, a bright, orange door emerged in front of the Chinatown Gate, and standing behind it was a man with a white badge slung around his neck. No, it wasn’t a scene out of a sci-fi movie. Rather, it was skit by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) to promote the Census Bureau’s Non-Response Follow-up Phase in which census takers canvass neighborhoods to follow up with households that did not return their census forms by mail. Household visits began on May 1, and is expected to last through early July.
In their native tongues, leaders and activists of various Chinatown groups took turns to speak about the importance of cooperating with census-takers and the benefits of participation: Anh Nguyen (Vietnamese), Senior Paralegal, Greater Boston Legal Services; Chealyn Tim (Khmer), Youth Director, Asian American Civic Association; Headmaster Bak Fun Wong (English), Josiah Quincy Upper School; Henry Yee (Cantonese), Co-Director, Chinatown Residents Association; Tony Yee (English), Board Director, Chinatown Main Street; Alex Zhang (Mandarin), Community Planner and Organizer, Asian Community Development Corporation.
Boston Councilors Felix Arroy and Ayama Pressley also joined the ranks of the Asian American representatives in showing their support for the Census. They maintained that the higher the response rates for Asian American communities, the more resources may become available for these populations.
Glenn D. Magpantay. AALDEF Democracy Program Director, said all Census takers carry a white, government-issued identification card and an official “U.S. Census Bureau” black shoulder bag. He urged all those visited to ask Census takers for their identification.
As of Wednesday, April 28, the national mail-back response rate was 72%. The response rate for the state of Massachusetts was 73%, surpassing the national rate by 1%. In cities with large concentrations of Asian Americans, such as Boston (61%), Lowell (63%), Malden (63%), and Quincy (68%), the response rates trailed behind the statewide rate. In Lowell, many tracts were unable to match their 2000 rates, with the lowest rate at 47%. On the other hand, most of the Census tracts that make up Boston Chinatown surpassed their 2000 response rates, with the highest rate at 73%.
Co-sponsors of the May 3rd press conference included the Asian American Civic Association, Asian Community Development Corporation, Chinatown Main Street, Chinatown Residents Association, Chinese Progressive Association, Greater Boston Legal Services (Asian Outreach Unit), the Home Depot (South Bay/Boston) for contributing the orange door, and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Households that have not received a “Be Counted” form may call 1-800-966-549 to obtain a copy.