Minority Legislators: US Census Creating Great Harm with Approval to Ask Citizenship Question

Assemblymembers Crespo, Kim, Solages and others declare their opposition to inclusion of citizenship question in 2020 Census due to its negative impact on securing an accurate population count in New York and the Nation

Albany, New York – Last night, as dusk fell into darkness of night around the nation, the U.S Census Bureau announced that it would agree with a request by the US Department of Justice to include a question on citizenship status in the 2020 Census. The inclusion of this question into the decennial enumeration of all residents of the United States as required in the Constitution is seen by experts and lawmakers as undermining a complete and accurate population count, especially in states like New York with large immigrant and undocumented populations. Today, legislative leaders of the New York State Assembly and Senate issued a call for Congress to stop the Census decision and for all legal challenges to the decision to be employed immediately.

“According to Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, Chair of the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, “We have witnessed what terrible financial and political consequences an undercount can have on our communities. The huge undercount of the 2010 Census cost New York over $1.5 billion annually in lost federal aid and the loss of two Congressional seats. We are about to see a greater negative impact as fear and uncertainty of sharing citizenship status will lead to millions not participating in the Census. This decision by the Census must be stopped by Congress and the Courts.”

Assemblyman Ron Kim, Co-Chair of the Assembly Asian Pacific American Task Force, declared “The census is the deciding factor in a number of important decisions from the number of congressional seats to the funding that communities receive. Questions relating to immigrant status, in conjunction with the President’s increasingly anti-immigrant rhetoric, will only make it harder to reach an accurate count in communities with large immigrant populations. The Census Bureau should have reject the inclusion of any questions pertaining to immigration status and ensure that a full and accurate count is taken."

"The 2020 Census must accurately account for every person in the United States, regardless of citizenship status. The Department of Justice's request to add a new citizenship question to the Census is another attack against States like New York with large immigrant populations," said Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages, Chair of the Task Force on New Americans. “By adding a citizenship question, participation in the upcoming census by immigrants and U.S- born people who live with them will significantly drop."

Assemblywoman Jaime Williams stated, “This loaded citizen status question, which steeped in our current political environment, appears to target and single out undocumented immigrants, and may further fan the flames of a powder keg issue that is not pertinent to our fundamental core values as Americans. The use of this question will only cause areas that are in desperate need of assistance to not be properly accounted for in the Census; as many undocumented individuals will assuredly not complete this question and cause numerous communities to be under-counted. The function of the census is to garner an accurate picture of American society not to cause a chilling effect that will intimidate a vital component of our nation to go unaccounted.”

"Any attempt to impose a citizenship question in the upcoming Census is a targeted effort to threaten and isolate immigrant communities across the nation," said Assemblywoman Nily Rozic. "The goal of the Census is not to discourage participation through widespread fear, but to provide an accurate count of all those living in the United States regardless of immigration status. In light of this threat to the survey process and in the interest of preserving the ability of New York to grow and thrive, I join my colleagues in urging the Census Bureau to remove any questions regarding U.S. citizenship from the 2020 Census."

Assemblyman Michael Blake stated “It is clear and obvious that the Trump-Pence-Majority in Congress vision is to establish fear and division among communities, especially communities of color. Asking someone their citizenship status for the Census, given the racist comments made by President Trump, knowing that it undoubtedly will have someone pause to be a part of the critical census out of fear of retaliation by I.C.E. agents, is racist and unnecessary. We must focus on doing everything possible for more people to be counted in the census so that more funding and resources come to communities, not less.”

“I oppose including a citizenship question in the 2020 census because it would impose unneeded fear and could result in an undercount. The census bureau already has a tough job getting people on board to take the census, questions involving citizenship could affect participation and deprive underserved communities of representation, funding and services,” said Assemblymember Robert J. Rodriguez.

“The census is the mandatory counting of the inhabitants of the United States of America. That is it. This one question will have very negative consequences on returns and result in greater numbers of people not participating. The resulting undercount will not bode well for New York State. Especially in areas that the Census Bureau knows are hard to count accurately. The only reason to ask about citizenship in the census form is to intimidate people,” said Senator Martin Malavé Dilan.

Senator Marisol Alcantara, Chair of the State Senate Labor Committee, "Demanding citizenship disclosure in the upcoming 2020 Census further exacerbates the current issue of undercounting hard-to-reach populations and will impact proper allocation of funds to the State of New York. Moreover, this unnecessarily intrusive question fuels anti-immigrant sentiment and will undoubtedly deter individuals from providing accurate information. In response to this attempt, I have sent a letter to Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Wilbur Ross and I applaud Congressmembers Meng, Serrano, and Maloney for showing leadership on this pressing issue."

According to Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda, “With this repressive, racist and anti-immigrant President in the White House, in no way do I support including this question in the 2020 Census. Too many people, including myself, see this question as a veiled attempt to intimidate immigrant communities, especially in heavily Democratic urban areas, from responding to ANY Census forms. The resulting undercount will mean both the loss of financial aid and electoral strength in those blue states. Let the sampling results, which have shown to be sufficiently accurate, deal with the immigrant count issue.”

"The push by the U.S. Department of Justice to add a question on citizenship is as harmful as it is transparent," said Assemblymember Amy Paulin, Chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions. "It is an attempt to leverage the unprecedented amount of fear in Latino communities – documented and undocumented – based on this administration's immigration policies to depress response rates and diminish the voice of these communities. For New York, it could also unfairly and inaccurately depress our Census count, resulting in far less than our fair share of federal funding and perhaps even impacting our representation in Congress. We need to get this right. There are no second chances with the Census."

New York State Assembly Deputy Speaker Felix W. Ortiz, declared “I’m not surprised that the President and his Justice Department where seeking to ask about citizenship on the 2020 Census form. President Trump’s support for this unnecessary and untested question is another example of this administration’s hostility towards people of color and immigrants. It is now obvious that the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross did not do the right thing by rejecting this baseless request.”

“Asking Americans if they are Citizens in the 2020 Census is against everything we stand for as Americans. The point of the Census is to be able to provide proper needs for communities regardless of their citizenship status. It also causes questionable data because of alarmed residents. Ten years is a long time for a community to have to wait for proper funding for its schools or hospitals because of an undercount caused by a faulty and untested question.” declared Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, member of the Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues.

According to Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, “The DOJ’s attempt to include a question on “citizenship status” is another attempt to target the immigrant population. This will only increase fear and lead to a further reduction in low response rates. An undercount in the census will negatively impact the number of congressional representatives and help this President’s administration achieve their goal of reducing much needed federal aid to the State of New York. An inaccurate census impacts us all especially the most vulnerable in our society.”

According to Crespo, “Currently, the U.S. Commerce Department is doing a trial run of the 2020 Census in the State of Rhode Island. This trial run does not include a citizenship question and the Census Bureau will not have a means of testing the negative impact this single question will have on its mission to count every resident of our country.” He added, “I stand in total amazement of how far the current Administration will go to undermine our Constitution, create fear and dilute the power of the people as is clearly evident with the decision announced yesterday on this matter.”

"To ask for citizenship status in the 2020 census is a clear indication that the US Department of Justice aims to exclude many from this population count. The negative socio-economic implications of an under-count in our state are detrimental to communities of color. A census by definition is a population count of individuals living in a particular geographic area; thus, a disclosure of their status is irrelevant in completing an accurate count. This decision will inflict additional fear in immigrant communities across our state and will undoubtedly result in lower investments and lack of resources for support for our communities who are already undeserved,” said Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa.