SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A coalition of Louisiana organizations dedicated to civic engagement wants to get the word out to those who did not participate in the 2020 census because of their immigration status that there is still time to be counted if enough people speak up.

“Right now what we’re focusing on is trying to remedy any possible damage that came from those who didn’t necessarily want to be counted,” says Candice Battiste, who is a North Louisiana organizer for the Power Coalition For Equity & Justice. “So what we will be able to do is possibly look back at those communities and determine based on prior census whether there has been any growth.”

Battiste says many immigrants chose not to participate in the 2020 census because they feared their information would be used against them, thanks in large part to President Trump’s policy of excluding people in the country illegally from the census count. But President Joe Biden reversed that policy hours after he was sworn in as president. It was one of six orders, memorandums, and proclamations he signed on his inauguration day dealing with immigration.

The state counts are conducted once every ten years to determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. Besides deciding how many congressional seats each state gets, the census helps determine how $1.5 trillion in federal funding is distributed each year.

The counting officially ended in mid-October following delays caused by the pandemic and the U.S. Census Bureau is now tabulating and verifying the final results. Based on the 2010 census, a little under 200,000 people lived in the Shreveport area. Battiste believes that the number has risen over the last ten years.

“Regardless of whether they were counted or not, we want to make sure our area gets every dollar that we deserve and we can only do that if every person is counted,” said Battiste.

The Census Bureau says it has counted 99.9% of households nationwide, though some regions of the country such as parts of Mississippi and hurricane-battered Louisiana fall well below that. That’s why Battiste and the Louisiana Power Coalition want those who did not participate to reach out to Power Coalition for Equity & Justice for additional details on how they might still be able to be counted.

“Being counted is good for our community, but I understand this time they were very afraid,” said Gilda Rada, who moved to the states from Venezuela more than twenty years ago. She now has a family and a career as an Immigration Advocate and a Representative with the Department of Justice.

Rada says she helps immigrants from around the world adjust to life in the Shreveport area as they work toward becoming documented, legal citizens. Most of the non-U.S. citizens she helps are mainly from Mexico or Central America.

“It was very interesting because the first couple of days it was a lot of information they give you. The U.S. CIA gives you a booklet when you become a resident or a permanent resident. And it is about how American society works.”

Rada says she always recommends immigrants learn the language as part of the process of becoming a citizen, but most of all wants to help those who come to the U.S. have a voice.

“Even if they have no document, it is important to have their voices heard. Because, yeah, we are a part of this society if we decided to be here.”