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Monday, February 8, 2010 - 11:05am

Bilingual Census Takers Hard To Find

Language barriers and the economic crisis could mean thousands of Southeast Georgia Latinos go uncounted in the upcoming Census.

The Census likes to hire people to serve in communities they know, so every door is knocked and every person counted.

The problem in Southeast Georgia is that not enough bilingual applicants are stepping forward to become Census-takers.

Savannah-area Census recruiter Mariella Orellana says, she has to compete with the private sector.

"I'm trying to recruit the bilingual Latino in Chatham County who's also either a green card holder or U.S. citizen," Orellana says. "And those people tend to be working already."

Officials fear many Latinos won't respond to the Census because they don't speak English or fear immigration officials.

The economy has displaced others.

"If I am not able to find enough bilingual legal residents or citizens to apply to become a U.S. Census worker, we may not have many doors open," Orellana says. "We may have more doors closing."

Georgia stands to lose federal dollars and a seat in Congress if Latinos aren't fully counted

Over the last decade, Georgia has ranked in the top-four states for fast-growing Latino populations.