Roughly 60 million households are yet to be counted in the Census. And with the federal government ending the count early, some immigration lawyers worry hard-to-count communities will never participate.
The problem, says immigration lawyer Cianna Freeman-Tolbert, is partially based on fear and misinformation that's been spread among immigrant families.
"Immigrants are hearing stories about ICE coming to their door and ICE getting information from different areas like the DMV," she said. "So they're trying to stay safe for their families."
Freeman-Tolbert is an Albany-based attorney with the firm Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna's immigrant team. She's concerned the early end to the Census could lead to an undercount of immigrant communities across the across country and in New York.
"You have to have people in the community on the ground speaking to these individuals in the community," she said. "It's very grassroots speaking to these individuals in the community. It has to be grassroots."
The Census matters when it comes to government funding, representation in Congress and where businesses will bring jobs to an area.
But that effort isn't easy. A pandemic makes face-to-face advocacy difficult, and it's complicated plans to have people fill out Census questionnaires at public computers. But Freeman-Tolbert says solutions have been found.
"A lot of people are feeling energized by the fact that we're in a pandemic and that this is an important time to have your voice heard," Freeman-Tolbert said. "So we're seeing a lot more of the non-profits getting on the phone, mailing out fliers and then they're offering them resources."
But what advocates are also hoping for is legal action by state attorneys general, like New York Democrat Letitia James, who could file a lawsuit to extend the Census count.
"What we're really hoping to see in terms on a bigger level than just a grassroots organizing is some litigation either from attorney generals in New York or California. We need them to get involved and say we need everyone to be counted," Freeman-Tolbert said. "We need more time."