People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by Sara Pol-Lim, program manager for the California Complete Count—Census 2020, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.
I know what it’s like to live in silence—to be persecuted in my own country and then live in the shadows in my new country. And to simply not count.
I am originally from Cambodia—a refugee that survived the Khmer Rouge.
The Khmer Rouge—an extremist political party—captured the Cambodian capital and overthrew the Khmer Republic in 1975 and won the Cambodian Civil War. Following their victory, the Khmer Rouge forcibly made drastic changes to the country and its people.
Due to the regime’s xenophobic, paranoid and repressive views, they viewed fellow Cambodian minorities as political opponents. Ultimately, between 1975 and 1978, the Cambodian genocide led to the death of an estimated 25% of Cambodia’s population—1.5 to 2 million people.
My family and I were part of this history. They were murdered – forever being a part of the Cambodian genocide.
I recalled vividly the horrors we faced during that time, and the struggle to find freedom and safety. Fortunately, I was given a home in the United States—like so many other immigrants and refugees before me.
Congress passed and President Jimmy Carter signed into law the Refugee Act of 1980. This Act raised the annual ceiling for refugee’s admission into United States and redefined “refugee” as a person with a “well-founded fear of persecution.” This Act brought an influx of refugees from Southeast Asia, including Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian and Hmong people.
For many years, I lived in silence—ashamed of who I was. I was often mistaken for another Asian ethnicity, and I was glad because it was my disguise. I did not want people to know who I was because of the guilt I felt being one of four children to survive.
I tell you my story because it is one that should not be repeated, we should not live in the shadows in our own countries. We should not give government the power to erase us, to erase our history, lineage and culture.
That’s why I implore you to take the Census. The 2020 Census is the most inclusive civic engagement activity we can participate in. You have the absolute right to be counted regardless of your age, sex, race, background or country of origin.
For some, you may think, why does it matter for me to be counted here? I don’t feel I can make a difference.
I am telling you, this is your home, whether you are a citizen or not. Not being counted means you don’t exist here. If you want to ensure your family and community has the resources, they deserve—to demand those resources—our nation needs to know how many of you are here.
For me, it’s been a life-long journey of understanding the traumas I faced and how to attempt to overcome them. Since then, I took ownership of my historical trauma by accepting who I am and appreciate that I live in a country and a state that counted me in regardless of my background.
I am now a Regional Program Manager for the California Complete Count—Census 2020 Office—trying to make a difference in Southern California within my own refugee community.
You have until September 30 to respond to the Census—but don’t wait—just take it now. It’s an easy thing to do:
- Online at my2020census.gov
- By phone at 844-330-2020 (a list of in-language options is available here)
- By mail if you received a paper form
Don’t let yourself be excluded from this country, you have a right to be seen and counted.