Saturday, March 13, 2010
Counting illegals in the census
The census is depending on the street smarts of groups like NICE –- they’re the ones who know, for example, that new immigrants flock to Herbalife meetings to become vitamin sellers. And Treves says her group also knows housing in this neighborhood.
"And this is where it gets interesting with census issues. The conditions are very overcrowded. There’s a lot of informal and, I would say, for many people, unconventional rooming or shared housing situations."
Marta Moreira is 25, from Ecuador. She shows me around the cramped apartment where she lives with her husband and daughter and several strangers. It’s little more than four small bedrooms with a bed in the hall. Marta and a housemate named Francisco say they don’t want to be living this way, but jobs have dried up and it’s too expensive to live alone.
I ask Marta the first question on the census form: How many people will be living here on April 1?
She says she thinks seven. She lives with six adults and her baby -– and she says she doesn’t think anyone is planning to move.
When it comes to the census, a home like this presents more than one issue. First, who is the head of household, the person who fills out the census form? Marta says she’d play that role, but could she provide information about her housemates? The faces change so often that as she points from door to door, she has trouble remembering each of their names.
Picture tens of thousands of housing units like this and you get an idea of why they call this neighborhood hard to count. Still, state Assemblyman José Peralta, who represents this area, says he thinks this year’s count will be more accurate than it was 10 years ago, in part because of the "trusted messengers."
"I’ve been working closely with them to make sure that we spread the word that it’s okay, because the bottom line is, if we’re not counted, we lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in this neighborhood and those dollars are necessary so that we can fund more of the schools, so we can fund our hospitals, so we can pave our streets, so we can improve our quality of life," Peralta says.
Good luck in Richmond Hill.