Framingham - April 10, 2010 - Census 2010 is trying it’s hardest to get everyone, including illegal immigrants, to fill out the census form. In an effort to try “a new approach to an old problem” they are adding a new tool to their arsenal, a comic book.
The comic which is written in Portuguese tries to to comfort Brazilians that the 2010 Census is truly confidential and will in the end provide them with a benefit, because an accurate count will be result in more money available for funding of schools, hospitals and public safety,
Not every Brazilian like the idea:
“That’s disgusting,’’ said Fausto da Rocha, cofounder of the Brazilian Immigrant Center in Allston, when questioned about the comic book. “I work to boycott the census. We want the government to work to legalize first and count second.’’
Others have a different concept of the project. A longtime community activist in Framingham, Vera Dias-Freitas, said nearly all Brazilians she knows have agreed to support the population count. She favors the comic book, even though she at first thought it was aimed at children.
“It’s really cool,’’ she said. “The census is doing a pretty good job, reaching out to the Brazilian community.’’
Brazilian members of the census staff came up with the idea for the publication and contacted award-winning cartoonist Daniel Nocêra, a native of Brazil who lives in Boston.
“Zé Brasil & Tião Mineiro,’’ the two stars of his comic, are everyman characters, The kid about needing an extra form for their many apartment mates
Distribution is massive. Any places where Brazilians already get Portuguese-language publications, they have provided free copies of the comic book.
“It seemed like a unique opportunity to reach our fastest-growing immigrant population here in Massachusetts, and to reach them with in-language communications,’’ said Kathleen Ludgate, regional director for the US Census Bureau.
A group of advocates have been urging illegal immigrants and their supporters nationwide to boycott the census in a protest the federal government’s inaction on immigration legislation. The movement, launched by the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, a Washington, D.C.-based organization representing 20,000 churches nationwide, calls for immigration reform by April 1.
“Politicians broke their promise to us,’’ said da Rocha, who supports the boycott. “We don’t have access to higher education, we don’t have access to driver’s licenses. Why do you want us to be counted if we don’t have any of these kind of rights?’’
Not all community activists agree. “It’s really getting to the nerves of people, what he’s doing,’’ Dias-Freitas said of da Rocha’s effort.
Dias-Freitas said the boycott campaign has more people talking — and learning — about the census, and she predicts the effort will boomerang and more Brazilians will take part in the census.
According to the Census Bureau , cartoonist Nocera created the characters in 2005, and they have appeared in Brazilian newspapers around the country,.
The population information collected by the census will be used to allocate some $400 billion in federal funding, as, of course, will determine the number of House seats each state gets.
For the first time, there is no long form; this year’s version has 10 questions, which should take 10 minutes to complete,
The census form is available in six languages, but Portuguese is not one of them. Brazilians who don’t speak English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean or Russian will have to use a Portuguese language assistance guide to fill out the English version of the questionnaire.
Ilton Lisboa hosts a Brazilian radio talk show in Framingham Massachusetts twice a week on 650 AM. As a member of the Portuguese-Speaking Complete Count Committee, he encourages traditionally hard-to-count Brazilians to modify their ways this year.
The comic book has been a well-liked tool in that effort, he said.
“We are always under counted,’’ said Lisboa. “Every single city and town has their own budget and the budget is based on the population. I feel bad for a mayor or town manager who thinks they have a certain number of people living there but they don’t know for sure because immigrants are always under counted.’’