Rights groups applaud SCOTUS ruling blocking citizenship question from 2020 census

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2019

BERKELEY, CA: A coalition of policy and civil rights organizations extend cautious praise for Thursday’s US Supreme Court ruling blocking the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 US census as part of the Republican Party’s strategy to diminish the political representation of immigrant communities for its own political gain. This decision upholds those of lower courts that initially blocked the citizenship question.

The coalition, which includes the Haas Institute at UC Berkeley, Make it Work Nevada, the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), the New Florida Majority, FANM (Haitian Women of Miami), and Make the Road Nevada, regards the decision in Department of Commerce v. New York to block the citizenship question from appearing on the 2020 census as a victory for the civil rights of millions of people in communities across the country who would have been harmed by such a move.

The groups had cautioned that including a citizenship question on the census would have had the effect of further politically and economically marginalizing immigrant and immigrant-origin communities, their neighbors, and their cities and states.

Ample evidence has shown that including such a question would have created a chilling effect among immigrant groups, particularly those of Latin American, Asian, and Arab origin, in next year’s decennial census, resulting in a substantial undercounting of their population numbers across the US. 

Further, recently exposed documents belonging to a deceased Republican strategist revealed that the push to include a citizenship question on the census questionnaire was in fact intended to suppress the participation of non-white groups to benefit non-Hispanic whites, and to serve redistricting interests of the Republican Party.

The revelation that Republican strategists were conspiring to suppress immigrant participation in the census, under the guise of upholding the Voting Rights Act, confirmed our long-held suspicions that those currently in power were engaged in a sinister effort to bolster that power at the expense of groups which are already underrepresented.

Census results are used for the allocation of federal funds to states, as well as congressional apportionment and redistricting. The federal funds go towards an assortment of things, including schools, infrastructure, and public transit.

“One of the things that would have been at stake with the citizenship question are the billions of dollars in federal grants awarded to states,” Michael Omi, a UC Berkeley Professor of Ethnic Studies and a member of the Haas Institute, explained. 

“Undercounts for states with large immigrant populations like California and others, which have traditionally been undercounted, would have risked losing a whole host of resources, as well as political representation,” he added.

As far as the effects of adding a citizenship question on participation, Census Bureau researchers themselves determined in a study published this week that the addition of a citizenship question to the census form would have resulted in a dramatic 8 percent drop in response rates in households with at least one non-citizen resident.

Meanwhile a study released earlier this month by the non-partisan Urban Institute projected that the census will overcount the white population—especially older and home-owning whites—while undercounting all other racial/ethnic groups, and especially young children and renters.

A survey by UCLA political scientist Matt Barreto found that only about one-third of immigrants and Latinos said they trusted that the Trump administration would keep their census data private. There exists a prevailing fear among those communities that the data could be shared with other federal agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to come after them.

These studies’ findings are consistent with the findings of surveys conducted by the Haas Institute in Florida and Nevada in late 2018. In them, about one in three Latinos and over 40 percent of Black respondents said either that they are undecided about whether to participate in the 2020 Census or that they will not participate.

Furthermore, partner organizations’ canvassers in immigrant and immigrant-origin communities have heard directly from neighbors and members that the addition of a citizenship question would have led to them sitting out the count.

These communities are already under-resourced, with inadequate investment in public schools, transportation, housing, and infrastructure, which are deeply consequential in stifling opportunity. Further reductions in funding allocations due to a population undercount would have increased already vast gaps in opportunity and well-being.

Media Contact

Sara Grossman,
sara.grossman@berkeley.edu 

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