Tamara Marquez didn’t know much about the U.S. census before last year, when she applied for a job as a canvasser with the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, a nonprofit organization based in Jurupa Valley.

Marquez, a senior at the University of California, Riverside, is forthcoming about why she wanted the job. Originally from Mexico City, she immigrated to the U.S. as a child and remains undocumented, which limits her employment opportunities.

She also admits she didn’t know much about canvassing, going door to door to talk to people about why, exactly, they should care enough about the census to fill it out. 

Between November and March, Marquez spent as many as six days per week canvassing in Riverside, later alternating door-to-door sessions with phone banking. At first, she said, talking to strangers was intimidating — especially when they didn’t want to hear what she had to say. 

“But you learn pretty quickly to change your script depending on who you’re talking to,” Marquez said. “If you’re talking to a Spanish-speaking household, a family with kids, you might tell them about how the census can affect schools. You’re trying to convince people, so you start by feeling out the environment to figure out which strategies to implement.”