Last week’s decision by the Supreme Court to reject the Trump administration’s stated reason for adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census is being called a triumph by advocates who have been pushing back against including the question.
Justices rejected the administration’s rationale to include the question as not justified and said it “seems to have been contrived.”
The status of the question is not clear. President Trump initially said after the court’s ruling that he would seek to delay the count to give his administration enough time to come up with a better explanation on why the citizenship question should be included, then on Tuesday the administration dropped those plans after concluding there wouldn’t be enough time to continue the legal fight and meet the deadline to print the Census questionnaire. On Wednesday, the Justice Department reversed course on orders of the President and said it is seeking to restore the question.
A citizenship question hasn’t been on a U.S. Census form since 1950.
The Supreme Court ruling was hailed after it was announced last week. “This represents a major triumph for our nation’s democracy, and a triumph for truth, justice and science,” said National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Executive Director Arturo Vargas. “Census 2020 can now move forward without this reprehensible obstacle to achieving the most accurate count possible of America’s population.”
NALEO created a commission of elected officials from across the country to look at the impact on immigrant communities should citizenship status be a part of the decennial count. Vargas and other activists worried that the citizenship question would frighten off many from participating and result in an undercount, particularly among the undocumented population.
Florida, where one in five residents is an immigrant and where an estimated 250,000 undocumented immigrants live, could lose a congressional seat and tens of millions in funds with an undercount of the population. Census numbers determine political representation and federal funding.
“Miami-Dade being the largest Floridian county in terms of population, it will be largely impacted. It already is a hard to count county, so adding the question will make it even harder to count,” Miami-Dade County School Board member Lubby Navarro said prior to the Supreme Court decision. The South Florida metropolitan area, which consists of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, ranks fifth in the nation in the number of undocumented immigrants.
At a late June festival in the nation’s capital that focused on the contributions of refugees, the consensus was loud and clear that leaving the citizenship question off the Census was a good thing.
“I think a majority of the refugees here feel at ease after the decision,” said Denisse Pareja of the group MedGlobal, a non-profit organization that deploys “Short Term Medical Missions” to areas where refugees have gathered but are not receiving standard medical attention, such as the Venezuelan refugee crisis in Colombia. “The legal process for these refugees (in the U.S.) is very difficult, both because of the time it takes to obtain legal status in the United States, and the uncertainty that they’ll get it in the first place.”
“As a humanitarian organization that does a lot of work internationally and in the U.S. with vulnerable populations and on anti-poverty programs, we want to make sure that people know it’s really important that – whatever they feel about the Census and the politics around it – that they know that they should be doing it because it helps get really needed resources into their communities,” added Christina Tobias-Nahi of the group Islamic Relief USA, which works on outreach with the U.S. Census Bureau.
Daniel Lederman is a reporter in the South Florida Media Network’s Washington, D.C., Bureau.