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Advocates warn against citizenship inquiry during 2020 Census

By Abner Galino

US Secretary Wilbur Ross. Image © wikipedia

CIVIL Rights advocates recently criticized US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’ decision to include the inquiry on citizenship in the 2020 Census.

The critics said the question would cause many people, particularly those belonging to communities of color and immigrants, to shy away from the Census which could result in inaccurate counts.

During a recent telebriefing organized by the Ethnic Media Services, civil rights advocates iterated that the US Constitution requires that the Census count all persons, not just citizens, for the purpose of apportioning representation in the House.

However, Ross said the critics’ claim that the question about citizenship status on the 2020 Census will lead to fewer responses is based more on gut feeling than actual evidence.

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, dismissed Ross’ rebuttal and outrightly called the citizenship status question a “tactic to scare away the Latino population from the 2020 Census.”

According to Vargas, a full count of the Latino population is the real barometer of a successful census. He went on to reveal that about a million children were not counted in the previous census and about 400,000 of them were Latinos.

Vargas said rights advocates are bewildered why Ross overlooked the contrary opinions of his predecessors and as well as of scientists in the bureau when he made the decision.

John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said it is the responsibility of the Commerce department to ensure that all questions in the census are properly tested and coherent with data. Yet, Yang claimed, the citizenship question was included in the census without the benefit of a thorough study or test.

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference Education Fund, brought to fore the problem of under funding that has been plaguing the national Census.

Trump administration has only allotted $3.8 billion for the 2020 Census, which Gupta claimed, was $933.5 million short of the estimated expenses.

Gupta said that Census has been chronically under funded but it is worst this time, adding that such would even worsen the problem of under counting.

Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of National Urban League, added that under funding forces the Census bureau to delay, re-scope and eliminate critical test, research and other operations that “impact the bureau’s ability to conduct an accurate count.”

The census is sent to every household once a decade to provide Congress with an official count of every U.S. resident. It is a more thorough measure than the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey, which is based on a population sample of more than 3 million households a year.

Census data is used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives, draw state legislative districts and delineate school districts. It is also the baseline used to divide up some US$675 billion in federal funding for education, infrastructure, health care and other services.

About 22 million non-citizens are living in the United States and about 11 million of them undocumented.

As this developed, the Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors approved a motion, authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and co-authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn, to direct LA County to join the State of California’s lawsuit or other lawsuits in opposing the inclusion of this citizenship question the 2020 Census.

LA County is home to 3.5 million immigrants, and we already face significant challenges counting minorities, immigrants, and other hard-to-survey populations,” said Supervisor Solis, author of the motion.

With congressional apportionment and US$400 billion annually dependent on a Census that accurately counts all populations, I am deeply troubled by this ill-conceived decision by the Trump Administration. This action is unconstitutional and LA County should join the State of California in fighting for the voices of our most underserved and undercounted populations.”

Abner Galino
The author is a poet and a writer. He was a cultural worker before he became a reporter for Tinig ng Masa and Malaya Midday Edition during the Marcos regime. He later became a reporter of People's Tonight shortly after 1986 EDSA Revolution. He went on to become its Chief of Reporters, City Editor and News Editor. He retired after 15 years in the Journal Group of Publications. He now writes for Weekend Balita and the US Asian Post (USAP), weekly Filipino-American newspapers based in Los Angeles, California.

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