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Census event seeks full farmworker count

MANATEE — To make sure as many of the estimated 18,000 migrant farmworkers in Manatee County as possible are counted in the 2010 U.S. Census, several groups are combining in an outreach to migrant labor camps Sunday.

Esperanza Gamboa, coordinator of the Farmworker Education Program, said the failure to get an accurate count would be a serious problem.

From schools to health-care facilities, a full accounting is needed to ensure Manatee County gets the full federal funding to which it is entitled, Gamboa said.

“We can’t survive without a proper count. That is the biggest concern this year,” Gamboa said, adding the problem is compounded by the struggling economy. “We will be suffering.”

Luz Corcuera, program director for the Healthy Start Coalition for Manatee County, said she is concerned that enough has not been done to get an accurate count, not only in the farmworker community but in the wider Latino community.

The fear of deportation may hold some back who are in the U.S. without proper documents.

But Corcuera said, “If someone knocks on your door and they have proper identification, come out and be counted.”

That fear works against everything local activists are doing to encourage a full count.

“The information is confidential, and it is important for you to be counted,” Corcuera said.

An estimated 600 to 1,000 farmworkers are expected to turn out for Sunday’s family event at 34590 State Road 64 E.

The event, organized by the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project, is set for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Local Lions Club members are expected to help out with Census materials and diabetes and blood pressure screenings.

Organizers are requesting the support and participation of other not-for-profit or community agencies.

Today , the seven day-clock starts for residents to return their 2010 Census forms by mail. Those who fail to return their form by April 16 can expect to be visited by a census worker starting in May, according to a press release from the Census Bureau.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.