Pacific Islander community in Sacramento organizing its own outreach for Census 2020

With language and cultural barriers making the count more complicated, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community leaders in Sacramento are organizing their own outreach to islander communities for Census 2020.

“It’s all about building trust, and it goes to people we are trying to reach,” said ‘Ofa Mann, President of The To’utupu’o e ‘Otu Felenite Association, known as TOFA, which translates to Friendly Islands Youth.

The population of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders grew by roughly 90 percent from 2000 to 2015 in Sacramento County, according to the community survey profile published by Sacramento State University. In 2015, 12,000 individuals self-identified as this group.

Fijians stand as the subgroup with the highest growth rate among all Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, with a 396 percent increase in population. There are at least seven languages spoken in the Pacific Islander community in Sacramento, according to Mann.

Mona Foster, founder of Hui o Hawai’i of Sacramento, Inc., said the community is still fearful of being targeted by authorities after filling in census forms. She sees a necessity for islanders to do their own outreach because of trust. “There are language barriers, and religious culture is different for islanders… for someone else to come in and speak to us, you need people who look like us to go in with you,” she said.

Foster said there will be a booth for officials from California Census 2020 at the Sacramento Aloha Festival on Oct. 5 to get community members registered. She said they will “catch up” despite having slower outreach efforts than other AAPI groups.

Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in Sacramento did not get funding from statewide API outreach funds for Census 2020. Mann said she felt that the Pacific Islanders have historically been unrecognized.

“TOFA has always been out there with the grassroots since the 2000s, but we are never included in any fundings,” she said.

Cha Vang, executive director of Hmong Innovating Politics and a Sacramento County community complete count committee member representing AAPI, said the statewide outreach has caused confusion within local communities.

Vang said the statewide outreach could and should have been more thoughtful to local communities. “They should do research on the landscape of community organizations to make sure Pacific Islander communities in both Northern and Southern California have funding and can work on being counted,” Vang said.

Vang said she will make sure funding from Sacramento County will cover all AAPI communities.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

Theodora Yu covers Asian American issues for The Sacramento Bee. She is a Hong Kong native and a Columbia Journalism School alumna with an interest in immigration and climate change issues.