Armenians were mostly underrepresented in the 2000 Census because of the large number of Armenians who had recently emigrated from Eastern Europe and Iran, and they couldn’t speak, read or write English, she said.
Many Armenians didn’t know how to identify their race group on the questionnaire, so they said they were white or Caucasian, Tovmasyan said.
They needed to mark off “other” and write in Armenian, she said.
Only about 200,000 Armenians were counted in California, Tovmasyan said.
“That’s like four times less,” she said.
In response to widespread underreporting of ethnic groups, Tovmasyan said the U.S. Census hired her and others to talk to those groups about their concerns with the questionnaire.
Tovmasyan tried to quell residents’ worries about filling out the questionnaire.
Many immigrants have deeply embedded fears of government because they came from oppressive nations often ruled with an iron fist, she said.
“We are having a very hard time in gaining the confidence of the people that are participating,” Tovmasyan said.
At the meeting, she reminded residents that their answers will remain confidential.
The fear of government is often passed on to younger generations, resident Savada Simounian-Khygani said.
“It’s very important to fill out the Census because our community is very scared to show how many of us there are,” he said.
Sunday’s meeting was one of many events the Armenian Committee, an auxiliary group of the city’s Complete Count Committee, will host to educate residents, said Executive Director Elen Asatryan of Glendale’s Armenian National Committee chapter.
The Armenian Committee, she said, was pleased with the meeting’s turnout and demographic, which was mostly seniors.
Many seniors face language barriers and often don’t return the questionnaire, Asatryan said.
“We look forward to having more community members join us at future community briefings and doing our part to educate the community about the importance of the 2010 Census and the financial benefits a complete count will bring to our city,” she said.
Get in touch VERONICA ROCHA covers public safety and the courts. She may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at veronica.rocha@ latimes.com.