The Luso-American Leadership Council (PALCUS) wants to strengthen the political rights of the Portuguese community in the United States, betting on the increase of the Portuguese registered in the country.
Speaking in a statement, PALCUS official Angela Simões explained that the organization will launch a campaign to register the Portuguese community in the United States in the next census of the country in 2020.
The campaign’s educational material, “Make Portuguese Count,” is currently being developed and should be ready by the end of the year.
The goal is to ensure that Portuguese origin is accounted for in the forms that will be distributed by the Census Bureau and Angela Simões believes that if the campaign is successful, the number of Luso-Americans in the United States “will skyrocket.”
According to the 2010 census, there were 346,172 thousand people of Portuguese origin in California.
The president of PALCUS doubts the accuracy of these figures, pointing out that “probably” the Portuguese community in the most populous state of the country is “bigger” and could approach 600 thousand. According to estimates from the American Community Survey, there were 1.36 million Luso-descendants in the US in 2016.
PALCUS has been negotiating with the Census Bureau to add “Portuguese” as an option in the definition of “ethnic heritage” available on the form, but the final questionnaire will not include this hypothesis.
Luso-Americans will have to write their origin in a blank line that will be available beyond existing options, such as white, black, Hispanic or Asian.
“People do not know they have that option,” said Angela Simões, herself a third-generation Luso-descendant in California. “Our campaign is to educate people on how to fill out the form if they want to identify themselves as Portuguese,” she said, stressing that this is “entirely optional.”
The count of more Portuguese in the 2020 census will have practical effects at the policy level, Angela Simões said.
There are several issues on the table for PALCUS and other Luso-American organizations in the United States, such as increasing the supply of Portuguese language teaching in schools and greater representation in congressional caucuses, which will have a direct impact on items such as double taxation and the visa waiver program.
In the House of Representatives there is the Portuguese-American Caucus and the Senate the Friends of Portugal.
PALCUS, a non-profit organization, has nationwide reach and will collaborate with local clubs and associations in the Portuguese community to distribute educational materials, which will have a multimedia side.
Angela Simões acknowledged the “very important” role of social networks to spread the word, but stressed that “a large part” of the Portuguese community in the United States is not on these online platforms, “especially the older ones.”
Local activities, including postal mail and reading material available from clubs, will be essential to make the campaign “very visible”.
Talks with the Census Bureau about the inclusion of Portuguese as an ethnic heritage in the census began five years ago, when the question was raised of Portuguese-Americans being classified as Hispanic.
The discussion is contained in the final report of the National Committee for Counseling for Race, Ethnicity and Other Populations of the 2020 Census, stating that PALCUS refused the appointment.