Counting Our Immigrant Communities Under COVID19 Pandemic
By: Andres Esquivel / New Mexico Dream Team
“Get down now! Crawl and hide!”
While we sat in silence in what seemed to be a life or death situation , my brain scrambled to try and figure out why my mother so suddenly put the family in stealth mode after hearing the doorbell ring. I managed to catch a glimpse at two people walking up to the door before the bell rang and I had to duck for my life, under the sofa where only ten seconds ago I was watching Pokemon nonetheless.
“¿Sera la migra?”, my mother asked in a horrified voice as she squatted down with us next to the sofa.
At this point it was clear why we upended our lives after that doorbell rang. This same fear of having federal immigration agents loomed over the household constantly. The worst part is that this happened several times that year until one day my brother answered the phone and learned that the “federal immigration agents” that had been ringing that doorbell for months now were in fact our friendly -neighborhood Census agents.
We managed to get counted that year, eventually. Ten years later, my social justice work has changed that mistrust in my family, but unfortunately for the majority of our undocumented community, not much has changed. This mistrust continues to make our state one of the worst counted in the nation. One thing that has changed, and everything for that matter, is the COVID19 pandemic the entire world is currently battling and that both poses challenges and opportunities for our communities to be counted.
Already we are seeing the impact mismanagement of resources and funding by the federal government can have on our immigrant and communities of color. Fueling the mistrust. Imagine the amount of resources our state has missed out on due to the large undercount of people our state reported in the last Census. It is important that under this quarantine, our families begin to hold real conversations about the importance our Census count plays in allocating relief resources in situations like the one we are currently living in. Doing so helps us acknowledge the elephant in the room. The same elephant that made my mom scream for us to hide and duck from those agents a decade ago.
Another thing that has changed quite a bit since the last census is technology and its increased accessibility to our people. Technology is the way we are staying connected through this time of isolation and it’s forcing those of our communities who tend to stray away from it to take a second look. In a time where staying home means saving lives, filling out the Census can be a task done right from the safety of our own homes and in the matter of minutes! However, there are still many that lack access to this technology or lack training in navigating it. This is where we as a human race can pick up the slack in that undercount percentage, and it can be done through relational organizing.
Relational organizing takes us back to the basic concept of organizing our friends and family.
If one good thing has come from this pandemic is the desire for people to connect with other people now more than ever. Through this desire to connect we can ensure those we care for the most are counted this Census 2020, and through relational organizing, they can ensure those they love and care for do the same. We live in an era where our friends circle doesn’t end at in-person relationships, now we have hundreds, if not thousands, of friends on our social media networks. Social media is a vital tool this Census 2020 and we must take full advantage of its broad reach.
So if you haven’t already, text or call all those, whom under this pandemic, form that close circle of loved ones you are checking in on. Make sure to reach out to all your senior loved ones that may be a little harder to reach, but who are worth that extra effort to ensure their needs are visible as well. This Census is one that will go down in the history books, let’s make sure our communities are counted as well.
Andres Esquivel is the Education Justice Coordinator for the New Mexico Dream Team, currently an undocumented junior at the University of New Mexico.