Las Vegas Sun

September 19, 2019

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Nevada groups celebrate decision to drop citizenship question from the 2020 Census

Census question

J. David Ake / AP File (2013)

The Justice Department said Tuesday, July 2, 2019, that the 2020 Census would move ahead without a question about citizenship.

Progressive groups around Nevada hailed the Trump administration’s about-face Tuesday in announcing 2020 Census forms would be sent to the printer without a question asking respondents if they held U.S. citizenship.

The decision, the groups agreed, was a win for representation.

“We are glad that the printers will start printing the 2020 Census without the citizenship question. We will not stop fighting Trump’s attempt to silence our political power. We will organize to make sure all of our neighbors, friends and families are counted," Lalo Montoya, political director of Make the Road Nevada, said in a statement.

Opponents of the question worried it would keep many from participating in the 2020 Census for fear of retaliation over their immigration status.

Emily Zamora, executive director of Silver State Voices, said that the point of the census was to get a full accounting of the country’s population, and that she and others believe a citizenship question would have led to a “significant decrease” in participation.

“Our Constitution indicates that all individuals need to be part of the census, so I don't think that any type of intimidation factors such as adding a citizenship question … should be placed at the moment,” she said.

Maria-Teresa Liebermann, deputy director for the Institute for a Progressive Nevada, echoed Zamora’s comments, saying the question could drastically impact federal allocations.

“Having this question on the census, which is meant to count every single person in our country, was an insult to our communities and to the Constitution that mandates the census be held,” she said. “Fewer immigrants participating in the census will lead to fewer people counted, and many communities may lose critical federal funds for education, anti-hunger and housing programs, health care, and much more.”

Zamora also serves on Gov. Steve Sisolak’s Complete Count Committee, which aims to increase census participation. Zamora said in a statement she and others would be working toward clearing up any confusion the question may have caused.

“Coming from a mixed-status household myself, I know the fear of retaliation firsthand with answering a question about citizenship status,” she said in a statement. “Although the question will no longer be on the census form, it has already created confusion and distrust about participating in the census. Nevadans Count will be working with our partners to rebuild that trust and ensure that every Nevadan fills out the 2020 Census.”

The decennial census is an incredibly important tool — it is used in apportioning federal funds and determining how many congressional representatives each of the 50 states will have.

Hypothetically speaking, if a large population of undocumented immigrants does not participate in the census, the state in which they reside may not receive highway funds proportionate to its total population.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week temporarily barred the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. While not completely ruling out the use of the question, justices in the 5-4 majority told the administration — including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the headcount — that it needed better evidence than had been offered to add the question to next year’s questionnaire. With the announcement Tuesday, the administration signaled it had run out of time.

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., the first Latina elected to the Senate, spoke out after the Supreme Court decision.

“A citizenship question has no place on the U.S. Census. As I’ve said before, Secretary Ross should resign and President Trump should abandon this attack on communities in America,” she said in a statement. “The fight ahead of us in Nevada is to ensure that every individual is counted, and I look forward to working with state and local agencies, as well as community organizations, to ensure that we are all counted and Nevada receives the representation and federal dollars it is owed.”

Besides some rural Alaskan communities, U.S. residents should begin to receive census documents in early March.