The U.S Census Bureau has decided to initiate plans for a possible new classification for persons whose origins lie within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with the intention of including the new category in the 2020 Census should testing prove successful.

This is a monumental achievement, as the addition of such a category is a cause that has been advocated for, for many years by various groups, including our parent organization ACCESS (link here). However, before the Census Bureau can proceed with testing, a public comment period is required by law, that is, the public is allowed to provide comments to the Bureau on this possible inclusion of a new category. In order to proceed with testing, the Bureau must receive a great number of positive comments; the greater the positive feedback, the more likely testing moves forward.

We at the Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) strongly urge you to voice your opinion on this matter to help push forward the testing. Every opinion matters. Your voice matters. The addition of a MENA classification would provide more accurate and inclusive data on the population in the U.S., making visible a population that has been forced to identify with groups with which they do not feel associated. No community should be invisible. Adding a MENA category will give a voice and a presence to those who trace their origins from this region. They would become visible to the rest of the U.S.

We call on your support for the testing of MENA as an ethnic classification to be included in the Census. We must reach 5,000 positive comments to support the Census for testing of this new category, and this must be done before the end of the comment period of February 1, 2015. To voice your support, please email your comments to Jennifer Jessup at the Census Bureau at, or visit

Please circulate this request to your peers, as widely as possible. We have a chance to correct a wrong. We can be a part of significant change.

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