Census 2020 - We All Count

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What is Census 2020: 

Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution mandates that every ten years a count -- or census -- of the U.S population is taken. Beginning on April 1, 2020, the U.S Census Bureau will again administer this nationwide survey to count every resident in the United States. 

Data collected from each Census provides current facts and figures about the people, places, and economy of the U.S. Census data can only be used for statistical purposes, and the confidentiality of all individual responses is protected under Title 13 of the United States Code. Thus, the sharing of an individual’s personal Census information with public, state or local governments, law enforcement, and other federal agencies including ICE, is a serious federal crime.

Read more about how cybersecurity and legal protections keep Census data secure and confidential here. 

Why the Census is Important: 

An accurate Census is essential for democratic processes and supporting communities. Census population data is used to reapportion the House of Representatives -- dictating how many seats each state will have for the following ten years and affecting state electoral votes. As a result, geographic shifts in political power within the U.S. are already visible. In the last decades, congressional seats have been lost in the Northeast and Midwest and reapportioned to the western and southern regions of the U.S. 

Significantly, Census data is used to allocate more than $675 billion in federal funds each year. An undercount in the Census could severely impact government funding for education, health care, affordable housing, employment and infrastructure in communities that are already under-resourced and marginalized.

Read about how much federal aid went to states and local governments from various federal agencies and programs for the 2010 fiscal year here.

Furthermore, communities themselves rely on demographic Census data to identify resident characteristics and needs, and to determine what areas would benefit the most from the building of schools, roads, hospitals, and businesses. Organizers in immigrant communities are particularly mindful of Census data, which provides important information on issues and needs of growing immigrant populations -- demonstrating, for example, where concentrations of specific language groups may live, and where there may be needs for more bilingual education and language-sensitive services.

Immigrant Communities and the Undercount: 

Immigrant-based communities are at the top of the list of “Hard-To-Count Populations” (HTC) when it comes to Census participation. New arrivals, lack of familiarity with the Census, language barriers, and lower responses from poor neighborhoods, are all factors that have resulted in an undercount among immigrant communities in the past, and are only exacerbated by an ongoing climate of fear and government distrust. Find more information on Hard-To-Count populations and a tool for mapping HTC populations here.

The President’s constant anti-immigrant rhetoric and even now, a renewed threat of mass arrests and deportations reinforces community-wide concerns about participating in the Census and fear that the data would be used for immigration enforcement purposes -- or even that government-employed Census outreach workers may not be trusted. In past Census periods, immigrant rights advocates have pressed the government to suspend immigration enforcement activity prior to and during the Census. Read NNIRR's 2010 national sign-on letter calling for a suspension of enforcement activity.

The Citizenship Question: 

The inclusion on question about citizenship is still uncertain. On June 27, the Supreme Court decided to send the citizenship inclusion case back to a lower court, putting at least a temporary hold on the inclusion of the question in Census 2020. On July 2, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the Census forms would be printed without the question; there has been a July 1 deadline to begin putting Census information into production. However, on July 3 Donald Trump tweeted that the question would be included and has demanded that the Department of Justice find a way to include the question, and has also said he is considering an Executive Order.

The Trump Administration’s insistence on the question -- the first time it would be asked since the 1950’s -- is yet another attempt to undermine immigrant community participation in civic life. The addition of a citizenship question has stirred significant controversy as the question would intimidate millions of immigrants from filling out the constitutionally mandated survey, resulting in a drastically skewed Census with immediate and long term consequences. Regardless of the eventual outcome of "the citizenship question", countless immigrant rights and other organizations, including NNIRR, are already working with local Census outreach committees and in supportive coalitions to ensure a fair and inclusive count for Census 2020.

Go here to read more about the citizenship issue.