Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he was invited by the Pacific Islander Community leaders of Northern California as well as of Southern California to speak at their Census kick-off events last Saturday – first in Sacramento and then in Carson. The objective for both Census events was to highlight for the Pacific Islander community throughout California and throughout the nation the tremendous importance of participating and being counted in the 2010 Census.
The day began at the “Get Counted” Census 2010 Forum at the CSU Sacramento campus where the Congressman was joined by Dr. Robert Groves, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, Dr. Sela Panapasa, Chairperson of the Census Advisory Committee on the Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Populations, and Mona Pasquil, the Acting Lieutenant Governor of California.
The event, which was co-hosted by the Sacramento Pacific Islander Leadership Forum (SPILF) and the Polynesian Connection Club (PCC), brought together nearly 500 Pacific Islanders from the Northern California area. Local leaders from the Complete Count Committee including Chairperson Elizabeth Lynn and committee members Steve Tupolo, Ed Unutoa, and Mileti Afuahaamango charted six buses from San Francisco, San Jose, San Mateo, Santa Rosa, Hayward, Oakland and other areas. Those in attendance represented many Pacific Islander communities including Samoan, Hawaiian, Tongan, Fijian, Tahitian, Maori, and Marshallese. Dr. Groves fielded questions from the audience along with a Pacific Islander Census panel including Steve Tupolo, Elaine Howard, and Valo and James Letoa.
Congressman Faleomavaega ended the day speaking at the Southern California Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Census 2010 Kick-Off at CSU Dominguez Hills in Carson. Dr. Groves and Dr. Panapasa also joined the Congressman at the Southern California event which drew in over 400 Pacific Islanders from the Los Angeles Area, San Diego Oceanside, and the Inland Empire. Over 100 of the attendees were youth, three of which encouraged the community with special presentations on the importance of Census.
The collaborative effort was organized by the Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Alliance (NHPIA), Tongan Community Service Center, Pacific Islander Health Partnership, Office of Samoan Affairs, Guam Communications Network, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council, and the Pacific Islander Community Council, with representative leaders including NHPIA Executive Director Kawen Young, Vanessa Tui’one, Kaiwi and Ka’ala Pang, Pat Luce, Joey Quenga, Christen Marquez, Chris Vaimili, Audrey Alo, Tana Lepule, Joanne Fields, and Lono and Sharon Collars.
In attendance also were Carson Mayor Jim Dear, Samoa Honorary Consul Teri Rotter, and Dr. Mitch Maki of CSU Dominguez Hills. Congresswoman Laura Richardson, who could not attend due to illness, was represented by her District Staff Manager Eric Boyd.
At both events Congressman Faleomavaega encouraged Pacific Islanders to secure their place at the table by making sure that everyone is counted in this year’s Census, bringing home the point that “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
The Congressman also shared several important reasons why the Pacific Islander community is especially in need of a complete count.
“Although Pacific Islanders make up only 0.4 percent of our nation’s population, they are among the fastest growing demographic groups in the United States today and this rapid growth is expected to continue in years to come. The 2000 Census counted some 874,000 Pacific Islanders. Since then, the number has grown by over 33 percent, surpassing the 1 million mark in 2007. This year, the Census Bureau is projecting more 1,176,000. If you do the math, that’s an average growth of almost 60,000 Pacific Islanders every year since the 1 million mark in 2007,” Faleomavaega said.
However, according to the Census Bureau, Pacific Islanders had the highest percent net undercount in 2000 of any ethnic group. Compared to Asians and Whites who were over-counted by 0.3%, Pacific Islanders were under-counted by 4.6%. Faleomavaega underlined the reality that “undercount” means under-representation.
“This means we are also underserved through federal programs created to help communities like ours. We must understand that such an alarming inefficiency of data makes it difficult to assess and address our needs. Given that census data drives allocation of more than $400 billion per year in federal programs, we cannot let this continue as our numbers grow. We need to make sure everyone is counted.”
In addition to the lack of data, Congressman Faleomavaega also stressed the importance of the Census in supporting the future of Pacific Islander youth. “Pacific Islanders had higher percentages of youth and children compared to other groups. Among Pacific Islanders alone, Samoans, Tongans, and Marshallese had the highest proportions of those under 18 in the 2000 Census.”
“This means that for every adult you see here today, there are many more youth and children who need to be counted. We make the decision on their behalf. Our decision to fill out the census will affect our young people for the next ten years. So let’s not have another undercount. They’ll have to wait another ten years to correct it,” the Congressman added. “We’re not just talking about numbers. We’re talking about decisions that will set the tone for our children’s future.”
“Many of us here have made a new home and raised our children in America, a land of opportunity and democracy. Yet we must all remember that democracy takes work and does not guarantee any definite outcomes. Making democracy work for our Pacific Islander community is going to require asserting our place at the table. We need to work together as a community towards the prosperity we hope for. Everyone must be counted so that we can get things moving in our communities, get programs funded, and work towards the well-being of all of our families.”
Overall, the successful turnouts in both Northern and Southern California both demonstrated the strength in working together and the camaraderie between Pacific Islanders across the state. Census forms will be mailed out next month and local leaders on the ground will continue outreaching to their communities to ensure that everyone gets counted.
“In 2010, we need to contribute to our visibility, make our voices heard, and secure our place at the table. If we’re not at the table, then we’re going to be on the menu,” Faleomavaega concluded.