2020 Census workers trying to reach more rural immigrants, college students in Delaware

U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham (right) met with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper and members of the Delaware Complete Count Commission in Georgetown Monday morning. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham (right) met with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper and members of the Delaware Complete Count Commission in Georgetown Monday morning. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

The 2010 census undercounted Delaware residents by 5,000 people, costing the state about $10 million in federal funds over the past decade.

The director of the 2020 census was in southern Delaware Monday to work with local groups on how to make sure everyone is counted this time around.

During a roundtable with U.S. Census director Steven Dillingham in Georgetown, members of the state’s Complete Count Commission gave an update on their efforts to count groups that are harder to reach: young children, members of the Latinx community, non-English speakers, and college students.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court barred the Trump administration from including a question about citizenship on the 2020 census, but the controversy surrounding it has caused some immigrant communities to mistrust how the census will be used. Dillingham says the agency is leaning on locally trusted groups to convince residents their privacy will be protected.

“They’re the trusted voices, the people here in the community with the nonprofit organizations and the faith-based organizations and the churches,” he said.

Regional Census Director Fernando Armstrong said he meets with many Spanish-speaking communities in his eight-state region, including Delaware and Pennsylvania.

“The message that they are telling me is, ‘We’re glad that the debate on the questionnaire is over,’” he said. “They are gearing up, energizing themselves to move forward with the census.”

Sheila Bravo helps lead the Delaware commission’s outreach to “hard-to-count” residents, which includes several Latinx communities in Sussex County.

“We have one of the largest Guatemalan communities in the country I just learned. We also have a very large Haitian community. We have a lot of farming community, very rural,” she said. “Our goal is … to work with community leaders here in Sussex County. We want to make sure that we are providing the right information and the right message so that they will participate.”

In addition to securing the federal funding the state is due, Delaware’s population count is also getting close to one million people — a milestone that would also bring the state closer to gaining a second congressional district.

“We want to make sure that we’re counting everybody so we can apportion and handle the representation of our state and our cities and counties in a good and accurate way,” said Delaware U.S. Senator Tom Carper.

Delaware had 897,934 residents as of the 2010 census. The latest estimate from the Census Bureau put the state’s population at 967,171 as of July 2018.

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