(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – For the first time in the history of the United States Census, persons from the Caribbean region and those with roots there will now be able to write in their nationality or ancestry on US Census forms this March, thanks in large part to the vision and fierce advocacy of one Caribbean immigrant, according to Caribwire news.
Twelve years after the Carib ID lobbying movement started by Caribbean entrepreneur and advocate Felicia J Persaud begun, Caribbean immigrants and those with Caribbean ancestry will, for the first time, be able to self-identify on US Census forms while still identifying with the race group they choose, the news outlet said in a release.
“The option comes following an intense lobbying effort started by Persaud in 2008 for better self-identification for Caribbean immigrants in the US on census forms. A congressional Bill, a US Senate Bill and over a decade of advocacy, the choice is here,” it said.
“Now for example, under the category ‘Black or African American’ on census forms, black Caribbean nationals will now be able to choose the race group while writing in for example Guyanese, Jamaican, Haitian etc, while those who identify as Asian or another ethnic group will also be able to do the same.”
Persaud called the 2020 addition to the census a “progressive” resolution to the problem of lack of self-identification for Caribbean immigrants on past forms, and now hopes that those from the region who live in the US and those with Caribbean roots will take full advantage of counting themselves present in this census.
“Data on Caribbean nationals in the US is currently sparse, based largely on the fact that this bloc has had no previous opportunity to self-identify in the past but have been lumped in with African American, Asian American or other communities,” said Persaud.
“Hopefully this goes a long way in making sure we count in 2020 so we can receive the respect we deserve as a huge economic and political bloc in this country, and our communities and businesses that have been dismissed because of a lack of economic data can begin to thrive. Let’s stand up and be counted.”
The US Census is conducted every 10 years and is required under the US Constitution. The census provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services to communities. Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, and other resources based on census data.
The results, collected once a decade, help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states and communities each year. The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the US House of Representatives, and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts, Persaud said.
The current redesign of the forms was based on a 2015 NCT research on race/ethnicity aimed at improving the question design and data quality for race/ethnicity while addressing community concerns over the past several years, including the call for more detailed, disaggregated data for the diverse American experiences, census officials have said.
Persaud said she hopes Caribbean immigrants would now ensure they count and not give into fear. She reiterated that the data collected by the US census bureau are used only to produce statistics and by law, “the census bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies, so your immigration status is fully protected under Title 13 of the US Code”.