Underfunding, citizenship question suggest political motives
More than likely, Congress will soon approve a new citizenship question to be added to the 2020 U.S. Census. A coalition of organizations that primarily work with communities of color and immigrant communities sees this as having a potentially adverse effect on their constituents.
Last week, Minnesota joined 16 other states, seven cities, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors in filing suit to remove the question, which hasn’t been asked by the Census since 1950. The U.S. Justice Department argues that the question is needed to help enforce the Voting Rights Act, but the plaintiffs counter-argue that it isn’t needed to fully enforce the Act.
State Attorney General Lori Swanson said in a published story last week that the citizenship question could hurt Minnesota in federal funding and possibly lose the state a U.S. Congressional seat — the Census sets up federal funding formulas and congressional seat allocations based on its results.
The Trump administration is using the citizenship question as a “veiled backdoor effort to suppress the African American vote,” National Urban League President-CEO Marc Morial said on a March 4 ethnic media call that included the MSR. Blacks historically have been underreported on the Census for decades. Over six percent of Black children were undercounted on the 2010 Census, Morial reported.
“The concern is multi-racial and multi-ethnic,” the Leadership Conference Education Fund President-CEO Vanita Gupta stressed. She pointed out that all U.S. people are required to participate in the Census, whether they are citizens or not.
People of color — and especially immigrants — historically fear that answering Census questions may later be used against them, such as for the possibility of deportation. There has been a “great amount of fear among the immigrant communities around the country” since U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross’ announcement, said Arturo Vargas of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officers (NALEO). He called Ross’ decision “deeply flawed.
“This is a tactic designed to scare people away from participating” in the 2020 Census, said Vargas, who added that some Latinos have told him that they are now scared to answer any Census questions.
Additionally, the Trump administration’s proposed $3.8 billion funding for the Census in the fiscal year 2019 federal budget “sorely underfund[s]” such Census efforts as community outreach and partnerships with NALEO, the Urban League, and other such organizations… There are talks of cutting in half the number of Census area offices around the country as well as reducing the number of field workers who do a follow-up with residents.
“The under-funding…will eliminate test and research that will [ensure] an accurate count” in 2020, Morial said. He added that the Census now has been “politicized.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) President-Executive Director John Yang said that he has advised his constituents not to boycott the 2020 Census. “We will partner with the Census Bureau where it is appropriate. But it is necessary to fight against the government on [such] policies,” he pointed out. Nonetheless, Yang calls the citizenship question “anti-immigrant” and said that it helped “increase the lack of confidence” among Asians about the Census.
The participants in the media call pledged that “this growing multi-partisan and multi-racial coalition…will continue to challenge” the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the 2020 Census.
“What’s at stake is the state of our communities for the next 10 years,” Vargas concluded.
Charles Hallman is the senior staff writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com