Shortened 2020 Census Timeline Will Shortchange Southeast Asian American Communities

September 30 field data collection deadline insufficient for complete count of communities of color

Washington, DC – SEARAC denounces the U.S. Census Bureau’s decision to rush the census in the midst of a worsening pandemic and with the most difficult work ahead. Announced Monday by Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham, the new September 30, 2020 deadline for field data collection and for community members to self-respond to the census is an abandonment by this administration of its own previous request to extend the deadline to October 31, 2020.

With the national response rate hovering just over 60 percent, the new deadline leaves the Census Bureau staff with even less time to count the households who have not yet responded. Having already had to delay their field work to assist community members with responding, including mobile questionnaire assistance and door-to-door enumeration of households, due to coronavirus social distancing measures, the Census Bureau is shortchanging critical operations to count the remaining 40 percent of Americans. The communities who will pay the highest price for a rushed census are people of color, low-income people, and people experiencing homelessness – communities who are already historically harder to reach and undercounted in any given census year.
According to 2010 Census data, over 650,000 Southeast Asian Americans lived in harder-to-reach tracts, or areas with the lowest self-response rates in the country. An incomplete count of Southeast Asian American communities risks their fair share of over $1.5 trillion in federal funding and political representation over the next 10 years.
“The Census Bureau’s decision to shorten their timeline is counterproductive to the purpose of the decennial census – to get a full and accurate count of everyone. For too long, Southeast Asian American communities have lived first hand with inadequate funding and political representation as a result of incomplete census data,” said Quyen Dinh, executive director of SEARAC. “The 650,000 Southeast Asian Americans living in ‘hard-to-count’ tracts do not deserve to be shortchanged for another ten years. Our communities deserve our fair share of resources and representation for the next decade. We call on Congress to act to give this once-a-decade task the time it requires without cutting corners. SEARAC urges Congress to vote to extend the statutory deadlines for reporting apportionment and redistricting data and to allocate $400 million to address the challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.”

ACTION ALERT: Take a few minutes to call or email your senator NOW

1. Call the US Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak with your Senate member. You can also click here to find the direct lines to your senator.
2. Find your senator’s email here.
3. Find sample language below:
Hi, my name is _______ and I am your constituent from (City and State). I am calling/writing to ask you NOT to cut the 2020 Census short and to extend the reporting deadline so the Census Bureau has the time it needs to count everyone in our state. A rushed census results in an inaccurate representation of the country. We need a full and accurate count of our communities in (State). Thank you for your time.

2020 Census Instructions Translated for Iu Mien Community

Washington, DC – In partnership with Sacramento-based Iu-Mien Community Services, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) recently added the Iu Mien translation of the 2020 Census questionnaire to its newly launched 2020 Census website. The US Census Bureau will be providing language guides in 59 non-English languages, including Hmong, Khmer, Laotian, and Vietnamese. Census Bureau will also allow households to respond online, as well as receive assistance via phone, in 12 non-English languages, including Vietnamese.
SEARAC’s census website serves as a resource about the decennial US population count with specific information on its impact on Southeast Asian American (SEAA) communities. The site includes county-level SEAA population data and maps based on the 2010 Census, along with translated factsheets, frequently asked questions, training opportunities, social media shareables, census news, and more.
“We thank Iu-Mien Community Services for providing this first-of-its-kind resource for the 30-45,000 members of the Iu-Mien community living in the United States,” said Quyen Dinh, executive director at SEARAC. “Southeast Asian American refugee community members across the country have spent the last 45 years laying the foundation for new chapters of their lives; we and our future generations cannot afford to miss out on the federal funding, government resources, and political representation that we deserve. Our time is now.”
Every 10 years, the US government is required to count every person living in the United States through the census. The 2020 Census will begin next month, and it will determine how $1.504 trillion in federal funding will be allocated to state and local government-funded programs, such as food stamps, Section 8 housing, public health insurance, roads, schools, and more, on which many SEAA families rely. For example, 41% of Hmong, 36% of Cambodian, and 31% of Lao and Vietnamese Americans use public health coverage, totaling more than 254,000 households; furthermore, 24% of Hmong, 18% of Cambodian, 14% of Lao, and 11% of Vietnamese Americans use food stamps, totaling more than 102,000 households.
“It is critical to remove any possible barrier for participation in order for each and every person in our communities to be counted,” said Kao Thun, executive director of Iu-Mien Community Services. “That is why it was so important for us to step up and create something that the US Census Bureau does not offer. We need a full and accurate count to understand the unique needs of all our diverse, ethnic communities, including the Iu-Mien community.”
To learn more information on how the census will impact Southeast Asian American communities, visit

Tell your Senators that We Need Additional Southeast Asian American Language Translations for the 2020 Census

Deadline to urge your legislators to action is July 3

SEARAC thanks Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) for coordinating a congressional effort urging the US Census Bureau to expand translated phone and online support of 2020 Census materials in Khmer, Lao, and Hmong (in addition to the already existing support for Vietnamese translations). This effort follows Rep. Lori Trahan’s (MA-3) letter signed by 39 members of the House last month, demonstrating the growing number of congressional champions advocating for an accurate count of Southeast Asian American (SEAA) communities.
A significant number of SEAA community members, including elders, struggle with limited English proficiency. According to the American Community Survey (ACS), 39.5% of Cambodian households, 32.9% of Hmong households, and 37.6% of Laotian households speak English less than “very well.” In addition, more than 14% of these communities live in poverty, making them especially hard to reach and hard to count. We need to make sure they have the support they need to be visible.
The census is critical to ensuring that our communities are accurately counted so that our families get their fair share of government resources, political representation in Congress, and long-term opportunities for themselves and their families. The deadline to support Sen. Markey’s letter is July 3.
 Can we count on you to take action?


Members of Congress Need to Hear From YOU

1. Contact your senator today.
2. Here’s what you can say:
“My name is ____ from (city, state). I am calling Senator (name) to urge him/her to sign onto a letter circulated by Sen. Ed Markey urging the Census Bureau to expand translated phone and online support of 2020 Census materials in Khmer, Lao, and Hmong. Many Southeast Asian American community members and elders who came to the US as refugees struggle with limited English proficiency, as well as poverty. We want to make sure they have the support they need to be accurately counted. Sen. Markey’s letter has a deadline of July 3. Can I count on you to sign on?”
3. If your Senator is Ed Markey, consider calling, emailing, or sending him a tweet  to say thank you! You can say:

“My name is ____ from (city, state). As your constituent, I want to thank you for being a champion for the Southeast Asian American community by drafting a letter to the US Census Bureau urging additional phone and online translation support in Khmer, Lao, and Hmong. Thank you for your leadership in ensuring that my community is accurately counted!”
4. Sign our pledge form to count yourself in for the 2020 Census. The link will take you to a Google form, where you can also indicate your interest in becoming a SEARAC Census Ambassador to help ensure an accurate count from the Southeast Asian American community. Lastly, we have included survey questions to inform our planning and creation of 2020 Census materials.