BROOKLYN, N.Y. — This two-block commercial strip of the Midwood neighborhood features a mosque, halal markets and restaurants, and tailor shops with colorful shalwar kameez pantsuits, all catering to the Pakistani immigrant community wedged between a Jewish neighborhood and a Mexican enclave on Coney Island Avenue.
Fear and distrust of government questions have a long history here. A local advocacy group, the Council of Peoples Organization, originally the Council of Pakistan Organization, got its start in 2002 as a liaison among Pakistani immigrants, the FBI and other authorities after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
In the past two years, anti-Muslim violence and the Trump administration’s restrictions on travel from some Muslim-majority countries have renewed those fears and tensions — and created new challenges for community organizations trying to get people to participate in the 2020 census.
For advocates and public officials, a complete count is necessary to maximize the area’s political representation and federal funding. But many immigrants from Muslim-majority countries such as Pakistan are wary. For many, U.S. Census forms recall registration requirements imposed by authoritarian regimes in their native countries — not to mention the “special registration” that the U.S. government imposed on some immigrants after 9/11.