In Trump’s Hands, the Census Becomes a Weapon

UPDATE (3/21/2019): On Jan. 15, a federal court blocked the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, stating that it constitutes an “egregious” violation of federal law. Judge Furman concluded that if the Trump administration got its way and a citizenship question was put on the census, “hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of people will go uncounted.” The Trump administration has appealed the ruling and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. The ACLU will appear before the Supreme Court on April 23, 2019. 

Almost a decade ago, I ran the Minkwon Center for Community Action, a grassroots organization serving the Korean-American community in Queens. Getting immigrants to participate in the 2010 census was one of our top priorities. Why? Because I knew we could use the census to build power for our communities, just by standing up and being counted. And we did, but it wasn’t easy. 

First, we had to educate people about the census's importance. After all, it's not just a head count. The census determines how billions of federal dollars are allocated on a state and national level, and it is also used to draw political districts, thus determining political representation.

Our educational effort required breaking down communication barriers by organizing volunteers and literature that could reach the 40 different languages and dialects that people speak in our section of Queens. It also meant addressing the real fears that immigrants, particularly those of color, have about turning personal information over to the government. We spent months knocking on doors, meeting with community members, and holding trainings to overcome these challenges.

But once we broke it down for them, our community realized that the census could indeed be a powerful tool not only to ensure that our communities got the federal dollars they needed but also to build our political power. The end result was the creation of three Asian-American-majority political districts and the election of Rep. Grace Meng — a true champion for our communities — to New York’s first-ever Asian American-plurality congressional district.

Now, nearly 10 years later, I am preparing for the 2020 census, this time as the head of the New York Immigration Coalition, which represents over 200 immigrant and refugee rights groups throughout the state.

I wish I could say that we’re building upon the last decade’s progress, but unfortunately, we will have to work much harder to make the same case. For the first time in 70 years, the Trump administration had added a citizenship question to the census, which is a surefire way of scaring immigrants away from participating.

Immigrant communities of color, who historically have been reluctant to engage with government officials, are even more reluctant now — and for good reason. Whether it is the Muslim ban, the rescission of DACA for Dreamers, or proposing to end family-based immigration, the Trump administration has shown hostility to immigrant communities at every turn.

By adding a citizenship question to the decennial census, the Trump administration is taking a campaign to intimidate and marginalize immigrants into the homes of every New Yorker. The citizenship question threatens to put all immigrant respondents, as well as their families, loved ones, and neighbors, in a bind: Identify your status to a hostile administration or risk the loss of critical federal resources and political power.

Our member organizations have already witnessed the ripple effect. For example, at the Chinese-American Planning Council’s childhood development program, parents have been asking staff whether “the law” requires them to fill out the census and about the penalties for not answering. They also ask what would happen if they don’t answer a question during an in-person visit or if ICE would drop by if they indicate that there is a noncitizen living in their home.

Should the citizenship question go forward, the state of New York could suffer a huge loss of resources and political power if immigrants are too scared to participate.

That’s why we’re working to combat Trump’s attack. Together with over 80 partners statewide, we’ve formed New York Counts 2020, a coalition to maximize participation in the census and began our census education and outreach efforts in March. We’ve spent at least $93,000 on census-related activities this year that we would not have otherwise.

In June, we became plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit brought by the ACLU challenging the addition of the citizenship question, alongside four other immigrants’ rights groups.

The Trump administration has attempted many times to stop the lawsuit, but the courts have repeatedly denied each request. In the course of the suit, we’ve found that the citizenship question has the fingerprints of Steve Bannon, Trump’s former senior adviser, and Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, all over it. Both of them have advanced the White House’s anti-immigrant agenda. 

The trial begins on Monday, and we’re packing every inch of that courtroom. Those who try to circumvent the constitutionally mandated count of all people living in the United States, regardless of immigration status, must be held accountable.

View comments (36)
Read the Terms of Use

Eber Rice-Smucker

 This is the new 2020 Census "Citizenship Question": and answer choices:

" Is this person a citizen of the United States  ?
▪Yes, born in the United States.
▪Yes, born in Puerto Rico,  Guam, the US Virgin Islands,  or Northern Marianas.
▪Yes, born abroad of US citizen parent or parents
▪Yes, citizen by naturalization. Print year of naturalization.
▪No, not a US Citizen "
 https://apps.npr.org/documents/document.html?id=4426784-Planned-Questions-2020-Acs

There is No mention of
.. the presence or absence
....  of any type of Visa,
........valid or expired.

   There is No Question
... designed to determine
....whether the non-citizen is
........in the US  "without authorization",
   nor to determine whether or not
 the person is an "illegal alien".

There are 100's of thousands of people from hundreds of countries living in the USA, who are  "not a US Citizen".

There is no way for the questionnaire to differentiate between
1) Those with permanent "Green Cards",
2) Those with one of the many types of visas, or
3) Those who are here in violation of their initial visa, or
4) Those who entered the USA via other than official channels.

The first two categories are legal and
 the last two categories are in violation of the law.
There is no way for these
 new Census questions
to differentiate between those categories.

There are No questions
........ such as the following:
1)  When did you arrive in the USA ?
2)  Did you enter the USA without official authorization ?
3)  Have you received pay illegally while in the USA on a tourist visa ?
4)  Are you staying in the USA on a student visa while not currently enrolled in school ?
5)  When does you current visa expire ?
6)  Have you overstayed your visa-authorized stay ?
Bottom line..
Much ado about nothing  !

AnonymouS

The simple answer is to just remove the question altogether. It wasn't broke, no need to spin your wheels trying to break it for no reason than to promote a bigoted agenda demon'strated every day by Trump and Republicans. Do you see it for what it is too?

Anonymous

AnonymousS Why remove the citizen question.? Why are democratic and liberals scare of this question? Why are you scare of this question? Since I am female of color and a older person I am not scared of it.

Katherine

Why do should we care if people are citizens or not? Congress people are elected to represent ALL present in the district, not just citizens. Once we start asking "are you a citizen" it would be easy for someone to start arguing that only citizens "deserve" representation, or to benefit from federal programs, since only citizens can vote. Then millions of people who pay taxes are no longer represented in Congress, are no longer considered in federal programs, receive no benefits from programs into which they pay, etc... because someone decided only proper citizens deserve these things.

Why do you think the citizenship question Should be asked? Go ahead, explain why it needs to be on the census?

Eber Rice-Smucker

From my experience,
 as an Anglo, Spanish -speaking,
2010 Census worker,
there is no reason to support the belief that
non-citizens will refuse to be counted. 

 Although there was some reluctance, initially,
for Hispanics who spoke very little or no English,
to comply with 2010 my 2nd tier Census interviewing,
nearly all complied,
especially when the opportunity to specify
country of origin, ethnicity and "racial identity"
was explained, taping their ethic pride. 

   I also explained
that individual data was confidential and
that it is illegal to share that info
with either local police or ICE.

     The census collection process is only interested in the aggregate data.

Anonymous

Remove this question it is designed for profiling, and Trump hates immigrants unless they are attractive, white and can pretend to respect his mysogistic, self serving and hateful choices. Be scared of what this man and his team if white supremicists would like to do to anyone who is not white and English speaking. also he is not smart enough to understand fully the differences between citizen immigrants, tax paying immigrants green card statutes immigrants, lifelong green card holders or legal visa possesrors on. Legal track towards greencard or citizen ship status. White supremacy is more than a threat we will take the entitled white boys jobs
, it is a deep seated racism against anyone who is not a White -English -speaking- American -born -man. For anyone who has not had the chance to study the history taught in Scools here there is a narsasustic self praising smug aspect to our culture here and we have treated our immigrants terribly for years and do not protect them in times of war and the second generation Immigrant Americans who are white just step up and often propagate that continued long term oppressive and patronizing assumption. We Americans are a self serving and bar sadistic country , with a compromised educational and judicial system. I welcome you and bless you all, but please, never trust us we are corrupt and some times violent. Our infamous Authoritarisn offender hating white supremisist Sheriffs A, is way beyond restraint like this same faction of Trumps rich buddy-boy GOP s in their blind hatred of immigrants for no justifiable reason. to think we are so much better than other countries . Our country seems to think it is the best one in the world without most people even have travelied out out of State.

Dr. Timothy Leary

In about two more years Trump will be out of power and America will be great again.

Anonymous

What the census is about isillegal aliens because they live in Communities that need federal money to support them and more congressperson or sentors. If they use the citizens question they will not answer and those communities will lose money and seats in Congress and Senate. So the Democratic and liberals must protect illegal aliens at all cost. I hope that the question stay on census. All illegal aliens should be deported. E verify E verify

Anonymous

And what about YOU dear? Or are you simply just ignorant and unable to construct a proper sentence? LOSE THE QUESTION.

Anonymous

You should be deported Anonymous racist who wants all illegal immigrants deported, I am ashamed to be an American because of people like you and Trump.

Pages

Stay Informed