Labor leaders and politicians blast Trump over census question

4/5/2018, 12:44 p.m.
Labor leaders and politicians blast Trump over census question
President Donald Trump's first State of the Union address

In a statement, Ron Jarmin, who currently performs non-exclusive functions and duties of the director of the U.S. Census Bureau said, “The 2020 census is easy, safe and important. It asks just a few questions and takes about 10 minutes to respond. For the first time, you can choose to respond online, by phone or by mail.”

But despite the many ways available to answer the census, one group of people might not answer at all—the undocumented.

President Donald Trump’s administration announced that the 2020 census will include a question concerning a person’s citizenship status. Data from the census affects how more than $675 billion is distributed annually. Not only could this question keep the count of the actual number of American residents off the books, it could lead to an unequal distribution of funds.

The actions drew the ire of 32BJ President Hector Figueroa. “Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision to add a widely criticized question about citizenship status in the 2020 U.S. Census is yet another example of Trump administration reforms, steeped in white- supremacist values, that are meant to divide us and harm communities of color,” said Figueroa in a statement to the AmNews. “Census data are used to determine congressional representation and funding allotments, so the inclusion of this question would endanger accurate political representation, funding for local schools, health care, and vital services that support strong families and a just society for America’s diverse communities every day.”

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit this week to block the Trump administration from demanding citizenship information on the census. According to the attorney general, demanding citizenship information on the census would depress turnout in states with significant immigrant populations, which directly threatens fair representation for each state in Congress, the Electoral College and federal funds.

Schneiderman filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York this week, joining attorneys general from other states including Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico and North Carolina.

“One of the federal government’s most solemn obligations is a fair and accurate count of all people in the country, citizen and non-citizen alike,” said Schneiderman in a statement. “For decades, administrations from both parties have treated this constitutional requirement with the respect and reverence it deserves. Now, the Trump administration is breaking with that tradition—recklessly abandoning nearly 70 years of practice by demanding to know the citizenship status of each resident counted.”

Figueroa, and other leaders, echoed the attorney general’s sentiments and stated that this question is part of the current administration’s desire to transfer money away from communities in need.

“This is a clear attempt to intimidate immigrants and working-class people of color while also providing a means to disenfranchise and deprive these communities of the resources they rely on,” stated Figueroa. “32BJ joins our allies in community organizing, labor, legal advocacy, research and a growing chorus of others to denounce this reckless act that will damage the accuracy of census data and put communities across the nation in jeopardy.”

“Without a complete count, federal funding for many programs will be reduced. Programs like Medicaid, supplemental nutrition programs, Medicare Part B, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, special-education grants and many more programs that affect everyone’s lives,” added Betsy Gotbaum, executive director of the Citizens Union, in a statement. “A citizenship question proposed by the federal government will frighten a significant portion of the population, particularly in immigrant communities.”

U.S. Congressman Adriano Espaillat also called out the Trump administration saying he’s “deeply concerned” about the decision to include the citizenship question in the census. He’s afraid that more people will have to operate on the fringes of society under a Trump presidency.

“I call on the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to formally object to the inclusion of this outdated and hazardous question,” stated Espaillat. “Including a citizenship question on the full census, an action last done in the 1950s, will drive people underground. Asking respondents their citizenship status is unnecessary and harms the reliability and accuracy of the census by drastically reducing the response rate, particularly among the already undercounted minority and immigrant communities.”