CNMI Census Concerns

April 9, 2010


"...an accurate count of the U.S. population forms the basis for many important but often overlooked political, economic, and social decisions that are made that end up affecting our daily lives." -- C.N. Le, Professor at University of Massachusetts, Amherst

While the CNMI Governor and Department have Labor have been outspoken about the Census claiming that they did not provide the same as they do in the mainland. Kaipat repeatedly has criticized the U.S. Census in her “reports.” From a July 2009 Saipan Tribune article:

“As a result of the lack of attention from census, we do not know how many U.S. citizens are residing in the Commonwealth, how many U.S. citizens left the CNMI and took up residence in the States last year, we do not know how many people are in the immediate relative [class] of a U.S. citizen category, we do not know how many children of foreign workers we have in our public schools..” Kaipat stated, adding that it is very difficult to govern well without the necessary data.

The deputy secretary explained that the function of counting the number of people in all categories, including foreign workers, is the responsibility of the U.S. Census Bureau which conducts person-by-person count every 10 years.

Census, she added, also conducts sampling counts for various specialized purposes each year and sometimes each month or calendar quarter.

However, Kaipat said in the Commonwealth and other territories, Census does not do this sampling work.
All census employees have to be approved by the Office of the Governor and the Department of Commerce Secretary. Some suggest that hiring decisions may be political.

Ruth Tighe sent a letter to the editor urging CNMI residents to protect the the integrity of the Census and to ensure that their census taker is trained. She also wrote about the census in her weekly column, On My Mind. She believes that “political intervention in the census process has now compromised the CNMI's 2010 census.” From her column:
It's been reported that several dozen of the people who were hired and trained, given badges and materials, who had been sworn in as census workers, were then told to "stand down," and to turn in their badges and materials, for various suspect reasons: their photo didn't turn out, their paperwork was flawed, the order came from "higher up."

Some of these people have since been called back in and given back their badges. Others, however, have not - at least not as of this writing.

It is hard to imagine that inefficiency on the part of the CNMI Department of Commerce, under whose auspices the census is being conducted, is causing this "on-again, off-again" change of status among census workers - though there have been numerous complaints about the "disorganization" of the whole effort.

In fact, rumor had it, at one point, that the governor was going to declare one of his infamous "emergencies" and waive the requirements for census workers, so he could hire more Covenant party members instead.
This raises concerns. We all know how the Fitial Administration has manipulated data in reports and in legal documents. (Some examples are the McGee report, Declarations submitted in the anti-federalization lawsuit, Fitial’s May 2009 testimony, and Willens and Kaipat’s comments to DHS.) Will this now be the case with the U.S. Census?

Ruth illustrated the process by which census information passes many hands:

All of which has drawn attention to the fact that the likelihood of maintaining confidentiality of the information being collected in this long-form census, with its detailed personal and financial questions - and with the forms being collected in person by local people coming house to house, rather than by mailing them in - is rather small.

Particularly when one considers that the collection process, so I've been told, goes as follows: the Enumerator picks up the form and turns it in to his/her Assistant Crew Leader, who turns it in to his/her Crew Leader, who turns it in to one of the Field Supervisors, who turns it in to a Supervisor at the Data Input Station, who turns it over to a Data Input Clerk, after which a Security Person is supposed to box up all the forms for shipment off island. Along the way the forms are inspected for legibility, completeness, etc. Who else may opt to look at the forms is anyone's guess.

Even without the taint that has now touched the census process, whoever was responsible for the original decision to have the data input on Saipan, instead of off-island, wasn't too knowledgeable about small island societies. It is totally unrealistic to expect that with so many people involved in the data-gathering process, all of the information that is gathered will remain absolutely confidential, never to be shared with anyone, by anyone, at any time. Small societies, where so many know so many others, don't work that way.

In fact, several people have expressed reluctance to turn their census forms in to any census worker for just that reason.

The Census Website states that no one can disclose information that has been written on the census forms. All Census Bureau employees take the oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of the data. In fact, the penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to 5 years. I am not sure that the Office of the Governor or the Department of Commerce can taint the census, but since the administration has taken the position that they are above the law maybe there is reason for concern.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you have seen the census form, there is not much even the worst bumblers could do to get it wrong. Nor would there be any political motive to do so.

The sampling that is being denied to the territories has nothing to do with the decennial census mandated by the U.S. Constitution.

Anonymous said...

Here is exactly what happened from someone who was there -

*Filled out and submitted a job application and took the qualification test (and passed).
*Was called by a Census office staff and told I was hired, that I needed to go to personnel office and get the paperwork for my drug test. Got the drug test and a police clearance.
*Was called by a Census office staff and told my training schedule. Attended the weeklong training.
*During the training the question about our contracts was specifically asked by a trainee. She said, "Are we going to sign anything, we haven't seen a contract". The response from the Census Official was, "Don't worry about that, everyone here has been hired, you've all sworn an oath, and you're all employed and will be paid. Your contracts are with the Governor now." To which someone else asked, "and what if the Governor doesn't sign it". The response from the Census Official was "Don't worry, there is a large stack of contracts for the Governor's signature, and the signature is just a formality. You are all hired, and we are a team."
* After the training, we participated in our first field meeting, where our supervisors assigned us to our individual crews, and gave us the rundown on schedules for daily activities and meetings.
* We were told that April 1st is "D-day" and that we would all be getting the forms then, and would begin to canvass our areas.
*On "D-day" we got nothing, but when we went in, our supervisor told us our "paperwork is still being processed", and then asked us to turn in our ID and our training materials. We knew this was BS. All of the ones "still being processed" happened to be non-covenant party.

The Census headquarters is Covenant Central. Now even the enumerator positions have been politicized. I wouldn't trust my information with them. NO WAY. There is alot of sensitive questions in the form. Do you think a party that flouts the law, and proper procedures and practices, and so easily dumps off 200 employees and then has John come out and bald-face lie, is going to keep any kind of confidentiality? NO WAY.

I'm not filling out the census, and I'm looking forward to my day in court. Me and a small group have already wrote the Census regional office, the EEOC, and the US Department of Commerce. We hope alot more of those let go have done the same.

A politicized census is a problem census.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 12:10

I also recommend that you go to the US Department of Labor. Please also write to the Census Bureau in DC and tell them what is happening and that people are not going to submit information. I am sending this comment to officials in DC. This needs to be investigated immediately.

Anonymous said...

Lock them up!

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much longer the Feds are going to allow this admin to keep doing things to defy Fed law. Fitial and company seem to keep "taunting" the Feds.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much longer before someone goes postal and takes the law into his own hands.

Anonymous said...

What is the deal on the payroll. Is it the local Govt responsibility to pay these Census takers and then get reimbursed from the Feds?
An article in the Guam PDN stated that about 90% were recently paid (late)and they were still processing the latest workers for pay. It takes about three weeks for processing from the time of hire to get into the system.

I am assuming that this is a high paying job for the NMI. If so this is the reason why this would cause Fitial and his cronies putting their cohorts.

It would also seem a way to some how attempt to "inflate" reimbursement funds and/or to re appropriate them to another area.
IF the allegations are true.

Islander said...

Wendy:

Wendy send this also to DC>>
I was told by one of the applicant for the recent police cadet that the hiring process was political.. some did not even went through the screening yet they were selected above those that actually followed the hiring process. one of them is the son of the present personnel management..
Aughhh we are dead under this admin.
Spread the word.. Fitial is corrupted.

Captain said...

I know for a fact that in Tinian this is the case every single time.
In the case of a "non-connected" they have to "jump through hoops" and do what ever has to be done to get an endorsemnt from the power that are to get their "kid" in the DPS.(Fire)
That is why so many could not pass a physical fitness test, drug test etc on their own.
Probably maybe only one in ten could pass a psychological test.(if given)
The same goes with reading and comprehension.
I know most of the new recruits (and family) over the years since they were in school.
Granted there are a couple, now and then, that could be good but they get "corrupted" fast.
Or they have to hide in the corner and keep their mouth shut to the ongoing around them, with no chance of advancement.

Islander said...

no wonder why feds did not absorb any local immigrations personnel..