Census campaign kicks off

Speaking in five languages, Stanislaus County community members kicked off a publicity campaign Tuesday to coax residents into promptly completing and returning Census 2010 questionnaires.

The once-a-decade census forms will be mailed to homes in mid-March. The questionnaires are supposed to be mailed back by April 1.

"I never even knew what the census was until today," said Andrew Silva, a Modesto High School senior who is active in Project Uplift.

After seeing one of the sample forms, Silva said: "That's shorter than any test I've ever taken."

The census is easy. It's safe. And it's important.

That message was repeated in English, Spanish, Hmong, Laotian and Cambodian during last Tuesday's event at Modesto Centre Plaza.

"Latinos must know the information is protected and cannot be shared" with immigration officials or law enforcement, stressed Sallie Ayala-Pérez, who is promoting Census 2010 through the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Pérez said Latinos are the hardest population to count because many of them are renters who move often, have high birth rates and fear anyone from the government. She explained that Census 2010 will not ask about immigration status or for Social Security numbers or driver's licenses.