SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has sowed chaos and isolation in Santa Clara County’s immigrant communities, making it harder to collect census data, a county official said Monday.

Much like other metropolitan areas across the country, the pandemic has hit the county’s immigrant communities disproportionately, according to county Office of Immigrant Relations director Zelica Rodriguez.

Roughly 60 percent of the county’s residents are immigrants or children of immigrants. Latino and Hispanic residents have been particularly hard-hit, according to county data, making up just over 25 percent of the county population but nearly 55 percent of the county’s coronavirus cases.

“It’s definitely created a lot of chaos, fear, confusion,” Rodriguez said of the pandemic.

Some immigrant communities are also among the demographics that census officials consider hard to reach due to barriers like language and immigration status.

Nick Kuwada, the county’s census program manager, said that while Santa Clara County has had a census response rate just shy of 75 percent this year, the remaining 25.8 percent of residents who haven’t replied could result in thousands of dollars in federal aid not being dispersed to the county.

Rodriguez suggested that a proposed census question about citizenship status, which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down last year, has poisoned the well, pushing some immigrant communities to avoid the census en masse for fear of retribution.

“If you are concerned, you can always reach out to one of our agencies. We’re happy to walk you through it,” Kuwada said. “But please take heart in the fact that this information is highly protected and cannot be shared with your landlord, code enforcement, law enforcement, immigration and customs enforcement.”

Kuwada and Rodriguez also emphasized that census data will be used to draw electoral maps that will be used for the next 10 years until the 2030 census.

“Only once every 10 years do you get your opportunity to say ‘what’s my piece, what do I get back for my family, my next generation of kids and family members who live in this community,’” Kuwada said.

County residents can visit 2020census.gov or contact (844) 330-2020 to fill out their census form. Information is also available at sccgov.org/census.

 

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