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On May 28th, 2019, members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s subcommiitte on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties hosted their 2020 Census hearing in LaGuardia Community College’s Little Theater, preparing for next year’s U.S. Census and discussing the topic of having a secure and accurate count of the population in New York’s five boroughs.
The purpose of the Census 2020 it comestogether when every resident in the United States that arrive at a statistical count of the nation’s population and the households, an action mandated by the constitution. The census impacts housing, education, transportation, employment, health and public policy. The main goal is to see accurately count the population in states, counties and communities. But today, it’s been an ongoing issue because of President Donald J. Trump’s inclusion of a citizenship question in the census form.
Those present in the hearing were U.S Representatives Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland), Carolyn Maloney (D- Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx, Queens) and Gregory Meeks (D-Manhattan, Nassau County). The hearing was divided into two parts that included officials from city and community-based organizations, along with other groups.
Throughout the hearing, the representatives covered various topics in the census: Medicare, transportation, education, nutritional programs for school lunches including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) funding.
However, according to the Urban Institute this upcoming Census 2020 has put more than 4 million people at risk of being undercounted for next year’s national head count due to the advanced technology being used.
Maryland Congressman Raskin said, “about 80% of the census will be conducted online and the people will be receiving instructions either by mail or email in how we can get as many people included in the Census 2020 to provide more for our community.” Most of this Census data will be affect at least $675 billion in federal aid for those programs.
Queen’s representative Maloney stuck to her statement about the importance of getting an accurate count for New York to avoid an underfunding for the New York’s population.
“We’re going to have to provide the service the people need whether they are counted or not. We need the funding for those who are in need,” said Rep. Maloney.
They eventually got around to the topic that probably everyone in the audience was waiting to hear about, the citizenship question that President Trump is looking to put on the form. New York however is a sanctuary city where many believe this may be a deliberate attempt by the Trump administration to intimidate immigrants and drive down the counts in areas where many immigrants reside.
“If the Census wants me to mark myself as ‘ not a citizen in the United States,’ to include me in the Census for funding, or whatever the case may be, I’d rather not even fill this out,” said Daniel Pinzon, an audience member from Jackson Heights.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, representing District 12, (Bronx and Queens) showed her opposition to adding the citizenship question. She said, “we do not fully appreciate how radical the founders of this census can be. Whether that is if you are rich, poor, landowner, documented or not. You should be counted in the United States of America.”
Representative Meeks said, “this question is what is at stake and will be if we do not get all of our New York City population down for funding.”
“The census is about money, power and respect,” said Brooklyn City Councilmember, Carlos Menchaca. The years census brings a fear to the table that may cause immigrants, undocumented or of whatever status, to forgoe participation in Census 2020.
Julie Menin, who is New York City’s Census director has made accommodations for those who are still greatly interested in filling in the Census by making citizens feel safe and comfortable through different types of outreach. Churches, local libraries and community centers will be used in for this effort, as in the past.
Other organizations throughout the city have made a commitment to the house census to make sure they have an accurate count that will determine what New York City funding will look after Census 2020 is completed.
Currently, “New York City contains large portions of historically undercounted communities, including young children, racial and ethnic minorities, non-English speakers, and lowincome people,” said Joseph Salvo, Chief Demographer for New York City. This means many New Yorkers have been undercounted and not included in past Censuses.
Census 2020 marks a new and more advanced census than in the past. It will feature an online response that makes it more technological. As the Queens Gazette has reported, “the 2020 Census which will feature an online reponse option for the first time, there is a hightened risk of an undercount due to the digital divide, language access issues, and local community mistrust in the federal government.”
However, local governments and community-based organizations throughout the city will continue to ensure that their residents are counted. Members of the House Census Caucus and other members of the subcommittee continue to oppose the Trump administrations attempt to add the citizenship question.
*UPDATE – On June 27, 2019 The Supreme Court blocked the citizenship question on the 2020 census. The justices decided by a 5-4 vote that there was “sufficient reason for concern about why the Commerce Department wanted to add the question,” according to CNN.