Libia Estrella is exactly the type of San Francisco resident the Census Bureau will have the most trouble counting.

The 45-year-old English as a Second Language (ESL)  student and immigrant from the Mexico has been staying with friends because she can’t yet afford her own place. Added to her constant mobility is her uneasiness about being contacted by federal employees.

“People want to cooperate but what keeps them from cooperating is deportation,” said Estrella, a City College of San Francisco student, as she waited for her Monday evening class to start.

Also hard to count are the poor living in crowded housing, African Americans, Hispanics, recent immigrants and limited English speakers. That’s why San Francisco City College and the Census Bureau partnered recently to ensure Mission District residents from those hard-to-count groups are tallied.

Although college students are not traditionally seen as a difficult-to-count population, they are moving constantly and that makes them hard to locate.

“They’re a transient population, couch surfers,” said Chris Jackson, a City College board of trustee. “They move residences every semester. It’s hard to pin down the average college student.”

Data collected from the Census Bureau is used to redraw congressional districts, apportion congressional seats and divvy up more than $400 billion to local, state and tribal governments each year. States use the monies to help fund rehabilitation programs, children services, Medicaid and basic vocational programs, among others.

It also helps determine what neighborhoods need additional schools or health clinics.

The census estimates that more than three million people were undercounted during the Census 2000.

One way the agency is trying to get a more accurate number is to hire people who are familiar with those communities and who speak the languages spoken by immigrant communities, including Chinese, Spanish, Arabic and Russian, said Sonny Le, a spokesman for the Census Bureau.

“We like to have people who live there…who know the landscape,” Le said.

While the Census’ short form questionnaire, which will be available in Spanish and English for the first time, does not ask for people’s citizenship or legal status, some are wary of leaving a paper trail.

After a string of workplace immigration raids and deportations in neighborhoods across the nation, including some in the Bay Area, some immigrants are reluctant to participate.

“There’s a lack of confidence that the data they provide will be kept private and will not be turned over to any agency,” said Rosalind Gold, senior analyst in the Los Angeles office of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

“It’s not only a matter of sending a message that the information will be kept private but that you being counted is directly translated to benefits,” she said.

Her organization, in partnership with grassroots organizers across the United States, will kick off a national campaign on Oct. 1 to educate Latinos that compiling these numbers could mean increased federal funding and political power.

Telemundo, the second largest Spanish-language content distributor, has also included a census storyline in their popular telenovela Más Sabe el Diablo,” “The Devil Knows Best,” to persuade viewers to be counted.

Yet immigrant residents like Estrella are not fully convinced.

When asked if she planned to participate in the 2010 Census, she said, “I’d like to participate one day in the future, but not now.”

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Rosa Ramirez grew up listening to stories about her father and uncles migrating from a small rural town in Mexico to work in the garment district in Los Angeles. Now, as a reporter for Mission Loc@l, Rosa enjoys telling the stories of immigrants from Latin America and other parts of the world who are making San Francisco their new home.
Her beat is San Francisco City College and higher education.
Before coming to UC Berkeley, Rosa worked for various news organizations across the country including Hispanic Link News Service, Birmingham Post-Herald, Rocky Mountain News and Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Rosa, who speaks Spanish and Portuguese, graduated from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

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  1. We are on the verge of a major breakthrough with the illegal immigration deterrent program E-Verify. Washington has extended E-Verify to the end of October, but that is not enough for the 10 million plus jobless American workers. The stamp of approval of E-Verify has been recognized by the hundreds of thousands, or perchance millions of citizens and legal employees whose innumerable numbers have been disenfranchised by illegal alien labor. An apparel firm was raided by ICE and 1800 workers who are illegal have been fired, unless they can be positively accepted as having the right legal status? Unbelievable! Now without further adieu, we must lambaste the politicians until they make E-Verify permanent? It should be placed on the peak list of interior enforcement tools, and everybody who gets a pay check should be verified as part of the legal workforce.

    Incidentally regarding the 2010 Census? Small states will miss out big time on federal dollars, while mass illegal immigrant states will gain more seats in Congress and too much power and influence? Of course ICE could check the immigration status of those who are counted, even though it’s supposedly against US law? Or is counting non-legal residence against the US Constitution?

    A huge number of suspected open border players, thought the courts would kill it as unconstitutional, or at least delay it? An amendment was presented by Sen. David Vitter that prevents any further delays in the implementation of the Social Security Administration’s No-Match-letter program. An amendment was also offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions that requires a permanent re-authorization of the application. The usual culprits tried to table the Sen. Sessions E-Verify amendment, but the motion failed and eventually passed. We have dubious decision makers in DC, who are not looking-out for the man/women in the street? This became very blatantly obvious in the stimulus bill, when no language omitted illegal workers from gaining at least 300.000 jobs in construction and other industries. The 247 G law is another successful police program, to identify illegal immigrants on the streets of our communities and highways. This law could be on the chopping block, as well as the ICE raids on pariah businesses. With modifications E-verify could detect illegal aliens applying for drivers licenses, car insurance, home mortgages, health care and much more? LET THE BLOODY EMPLOYERS WHO HAVE INSTIGATED THIS IMMIGRATION MESS–PAY FOR IT

    Both California and Nevada’s lawmakers have a high percentage of illegal alien populace, so they are indebted not to enforce immigration laws. We as voters must transfer our frustration and anger to those who represent us at 202-224-3121. A continuous barrage of irate voters has upset the politician’s applecart in their offices, demanding change? You will only discover the true patriotic American politicians by going to and examining their immigration grades at NUMBERSUSA, JUDICIAL WATCH & for OVERPOPULATION statistics CAPSWEB. If we hesitate about these issues, all is lost, and the anti-sovereignty groups will take away our jobs, freedoms. If you really want to view the absolute appalling state our roads, bridges, dams and drinking water structure, watch “The Crumbling of America.” The History channel has been illuminating the complete and utter indifference, while we financially support the world, wars and illegal immigrants for the business community.