How filling out the census leaves behind your legacy

Dan Vicuna
Dan Vicuna is the national redistricting manager for Common Cause, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. – Photo courtesy of Common Cause

 

By DAN VICUNA

Common Cause

 

Responding to the census is of the most important ways we can make our voices heard and write our own chapter of the American story. The census is designed to count every person living in the United States every 10 years. 2020 is one of those years. This essential count is used to distribute more than a trillion dollars of federal resources, establish a population base for voting districts for the next decade, and provide a snapshot of who we are as a country. Unfortunately, time is running short. Depending on a U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Census Bureau could stop accepting responses anytime between now and Oct. 31. But amid the uncertainty, one thing remains true: there is still time to participate in the census. Please go to My2020census.gov to fill out the form today.

I have the privilege of working on the redistricting and representation team at Common Cause. Our mission is to ensure that every person living in the United States, including citizen voters and non-citizen constituents, has a voice in our democracy and is counted in the census. Census data is used to determine funding for fire trucks, hospitals, roads, buses and school supplies. It’s also used to allocate seats in Congress so that your family and community are represented. Doing work I love while having the opportunity to build a life for my young son in which he can also chart his own course was not inevitable.

In my son, I see the sacrifices of his ancestors who made our opportunities possible. I see my great-grandfather, who left Sonora, Mexico to build a new life in America. He met my great-grandmother in Arizona and supported his family by working as a coalminer. My grandmother remembers her homesick dad holding back tears when he heard songs about Sonora. His mining job was dangerous work that eventually led to black lung that would cut his life short in his fifties. I see my uncle, my son’s namesake. He was a brilliant and kind young man who left the comforts of life as an undergrad at UC Berkeley to risk, and ultimately give, his life for his country as a Marine in Vietnam.

I see my wife’s great-grandparents, immigrants from Japan who built a life in the United States by running a tofu business and a boarding house. Their lives were torn apart during World War II when the federal government placed them in concentration camps simply because of their Japanese heritage. This did not stop their sons from serving their country. One of my wife’s grandfathers saw ferocious combat against the Nazis in the U.S. Army’s famed 442nd Infantry Regiment while another served as a U.S. Army translator in occupied Japan.

Despite hardships and tragedy, my son’s ancestors built amazing lives and raised children and grandchildren who are shaping the American story. While the courage and determination of those ancestors played a critical role in the opportunities our family enjoys, that is not enough. Our opportunities were made possible by the blood, sweat and tears of activists who demanded a seat at the table for Latinos and Asian Americans.

One way we can honor those who fought to make America adhere to its principles is to participate in the census. Many Americans learn about their ancestors through census data on genealogy websites. These data will leave behind a fascinating tale about the lives we lived for future generations. However, their most important impact happens right now. Participating in the census provides an accurate demographic picture for effective enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The importance of participating in the census simply cannot be overstated – especially for people of color – the demographic most likely to be undercounted.

My family’s story is not unique. Most of us stand on the shoulders of those who risked everything to give us the lives we now lead. Whether you are a citizen or an undocumented immigrant, the first generation in your family to make a life in this country or the 15th, you can honor those who came before us by making yourself count in our democracy. Will you leave your legacy by filling out the census today?

 

Dan Vicuna is the national redistricting manager for Common Cause, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. He can be reached through https://www.commoncause.org.

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