By Meeta Anand
In theory, partisanship should have nothing to do with the census, a constitutionally mandated decennial count of every resident in the country. Beginning with their effort to tack on the ridiculous “citizenship question” to the census through to the blatantly unconstitutional memo demanding an exclusion of noncitizens from the count, President Trump has ensured maximum politicization of the count. For immigrant-rich states like New York, the potential costs of Trump’s meddling are enormous.
The 2020 census will impact everything from the federal dollars New York receives for roads, hospitals, schools, workforce development and disability insurance for the next decade. These resources will prove vital as Western New York bears the brunt of an economic recession and rebuilds in the wake of Covid-19. Our participation in the 2020 census will also help us retain our representatives at the federal level. After the 2010 census, Western New York lost one representative. Right now estimates are that New York will possibly lose one or two seats after House of Representatives seats are allocated across states.
In other words, the 2020 census is a battleground between New York and the Trump administration. We, at the New York Immigration Coalition, are doing everything we can to fight back and ensure New York wins. That is why we joined others in filing a lawsuit that demonstrates the unconstitutional nature of Trump’s scam to exclude undocumented immigrants for the purposes of apportionment, and to make it clear that absolutely everyone that resides in the United States counts in the census.
It will not be an easy fight. In addition to Trump’s obvious meddling, there have been quieter moves to suppress the count from the U.S. Census Bureau itself. On Aug. 3, the Census Bureau cut short the census operations period from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30 – leading to the shortest field operations period ever.
We know from previous years that the field operations period is necessary for outreach and reminding people to fill out the census.
The result of these twin efforts of creating confusion on who counts in the census and shortening the period of time that would allow for effective messaging that would counter this confusion is to make it harder for us to achieve the fair and accurate count we deserve.
There is less than a month to go before the 2020 census ends. This is a fight for the resources Western New York needs to rebuild in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. If we are going to emerge victorious, we will need every single New Yorker to join us in completing the census.
Meeta Anand is the New York Immigration Coalition’s Census 2020 senior fellow.
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