My world changed on July 4, 2019, with the birth of my beautiful daughter, Camila. Becoming a father for the first time came with excitement, anticipation, joy, fear, anxiety, and so much more. It took some time to process that I was a father now – it seemed surreal at first – I just couldn’t believe it. Witnessing Camila’s birth and holding her for the first time are moments that will stay engrained in my heart for the rest of my life. And while I have experienced some of the challenges and rewards of fatherhood for only 11 months, I know there’s more to come. Alongside my wife, we now have the enormous responsibility of raising Camila. I’ve always told myself that whenever I became a father, I would be committed to nurturing and raising a compassionate and socially conscious (a.k.a. #woke) human being. This commitment stems from a responsibility I have not only to my daughter but to society and my community – and it starts by ensuring she gets counted in the 2020 census.
I recognized a passion I had for equity and social justice early in my career. My commitment to serving our most vulnerable communities is the reason my work experiences have included advocating for and empowering my community, something I continue to do today as the California Senior Census Program Manager at the NALEO Educational Fund.
I was born in Los Angeles from parents who immigrated to California from El Salvador in the early 1980s, which is why NALEO Educational Fund’s mission of facilitating the full Latino participation in the American political process, from citizenship to public service is deeply personal to me. And with Latinos being the second-largest population in the United States, I want to do all that I can to make sure we have a voice in this country.
Every ten years, America has the responsibility to use data gathered through the decennial census to ensure the fair distribution of political representation and federal funding for programs from which our children and communities benefit. NALEO Educational Fund is committed to ensuring a full and accurate count of Latinos in the census—work that I am immersed in, helping make sure that Los Angeles County, one of the most severely undercounted counties in the country, is accurately enumerated by the Census Bureau.
Like all parents, I want to provide the very best for Camila, which includes leaving behind a better world than the one I inherited. In my eyes, parenthood and social justice efforts are intrinsically connected, and it is critically important that she be allowed to grow up and mature into a more just world in which she and her generation can thrive. Part of my role as her father in shaping that world is working hard to help ensure a full 2020 Census count.
This work has far-reaching impacts that will affect the world around Camila. Accurate census data informs the fair distribution of over $1.5 trillion in federal funding for critical programs, social services, education, and infrastructure projects, not just in Los Angeles but across the country. Additionally, the decennial census also has implications at a national level as population data help determine the allocation of Congressional representation, and subsequently, votes in the Electoral College for presidential elections. These realities are fundamentally tied to both the society in which Camila is raised and the democracy she will inherit as an adult.
Census data also guide a wide range of decisions made in the public and private sectors. Emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic illustrate an example of this reality where all levels of government use census data to respond accordingly as public health experts, government officials, and first responders all rely on population data to make critical decisions.
Unfortunately, the census consistently undercounts children under five at a much higher rate than any other age group. The 2010 Census failed to count almost one million children ages 0-4. Approximately 400,000 of those children were Latino children.
Our kids depend on us to make decisions that are in their best interests. They are counting on us to lift their voices and shape their futures. By counting all children in the decennial census, we ensure that essential programs that benefit all of our families like Title I funding for schools; Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); Head Start; Foster Care Assistance Programs; and Child Care Centers are funded. As a father, the gravity of this reality has made it unequivocally clear that my little Camila and other kids like her, must be counted in the 2020 Census.
Census operations, due to COVID-19, have been extended until October 31, 2020, but there’s no reason to wait until then to respond to the questionnaire. Doing so has never been easier: you can respond online at my2020census.gov/, by mail, or over the phone (844-330-2020). The form can be completed in about 10 minutes – it took my family of three less than that. Remember to count everyone living in your household; this includes babies like Camila, young children, long-term visitors, and all family members, as well as unrelated persons. Additionally, you can call NALEO Educational Fund’s bilingual national hotline at 877-EL-CENSO to get any of your census-related questions answered.
It is critical that we use our power, networks, and connections to one another to make sure no one goes uncounted. Everyone can be a census ambassador from their own home. Create a contact list of your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Check-in on them during these times of physical distancing and make sure they understand the importance and implications of a full and accurate census count. Do it for you and your family and also for me, my family, and baby Camila. Our strength is in numbers, and together, we will be seen, heard, and counted!
Happy Father’s Day, y Hágase Contar!
Giovany Hernandez currently serves as the California Senior Census Program Manager at NALEO Educational Fund, based in the Los Angeles headquarters office.
The ¡Hágase Contar! Census 2020 campaign is a national effort developed and led by NALEO Educational Fund. The ¡Hazme Contar! campaign is a sub-campaign focused on achieving a full count of Latino children under five. Both campaigns will focus on regions with significant Hard-To-Count (HTC) Latino communities and notable undercounts of Latino children.