Census officials stressed the accuracy of this decade’s count, since it will determine how the city’s most diverse borough is represented in the House of Representatives, how congressional districts are drawn, and how much funding is allocated to infrastructure, schools, and health services.
The U.S. Census Bureau is hiring a number of full- and part-time jobs, with over 3,000 positions available in Queens alone that will last until summer 2020.
Starting pay for the majority of these positions is $25 an hour, and most of the people hired will work short-term, temporary jobs that last between eight and twelve weeks. On the full-time level, the Census Bureau is opening four offices in Queens.
“We need clerical staff to work in each one of those offices,” said Jeff Behler, U.S. Census Bureau regional director.
Behler stressed the importance of having lifelong, local Queens residents on the team.
“Even though the Census is a national event, it has to be conducted at the local level in order to be successful,” he said. “We need to hire people who have the language skills so that when they’re out there working with the community, they’re able to communicate.
“This is probably the biggest event we’ve done to date throughout the New York region,” Behler added.
Knowledge of immigrant cultures will allow Census takers to understand what challenges or protocols exist in the many different neighborhoods throughout Queens.
“We really try to hire people to work in their own communities,” Behler added.
Nationally, this Census has been wrapped in a large debate of whether or not a citizenship question should be added. While a decision has not yet been made, the Supreme Court has agreed to hold a hearing on the subject in June.
While some people fear that admitting to not being a U.S. Citizen could result in legal action or potential deportation, the Census Bureau ensures that this question, if added, would have no such repercussions.
“Every piece of data we collect is protected by Title 13, which basically states that no local, state, federal law enforcement agency – not ICE, not Homeland Security – can access our data,” Behler said.
Title 13 has been in effect since the 1950 Census, and prohibits the Census Bureau from releasing any information that would identify a person or household.
“It’s really the foundation of everything we do, because we rely on the public trust,” Behler added.
Additionally, all Census employees are sworn to confidentiality, a breach of which is punishable by up to $250,000 or five years in prison.
Regardless, the Bureau believes the question would affect the accuracy of the Census.
“Forty percent of Queens population is foreign born,” said Ashook Ramsaran, president of the Indian Diaspora Council International. “Many of them have experienced government controls that are very intrusive in their lives. They like to avoid that, so the citizenship question on the Census will definitely have an impact on the amount of Census completion.”
The goal of the Bureau, then, is to overcome that hesitation by instilling trust and privacy in the 2020 Census.
“That message has to be translated so the fear factor is removed,” Ramsaran added.
For those interested in obtaining a job with the Census Bureau but were not able to attend the May 1st job fair, they can go online to 2020Census.gov/jobs to read about different position requirements, pay rates, types of jobs available, and how to apply online. There is also a toll free number, 1-855-JOB-2020 (1-855-562-2020), to speak with a live person.