New York Fiercely Opposes Census Citizenship Question

A large percentage of the New York City population does not have U.S. citizenship. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

The city and the state of New York will fiercely oppose the inclusion in the 2020 Census of a question about citizenship, as was announced on Monday by the Department of Commerce.

Everyone from top elected officials, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Mayor Bill de Blasio, to Public Advocate Letitia James and pro-immigrant organizations such as the New York Immigration Coalition, Make the Road New York and the union 32BJ SEIU, issued statements rejecting the decision by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, arguing that it stands in the way of guaranteeing a fair and accurate census.

“The Trump administration’s decision to ask about citizenship on the U.S. Census is a gross political act that launches another missile at the heart of New York. Make no mistake: this decision is anti-immigrant and is intended only to serve the political agenda of those in power in Washington,” said Gov. Cuomo.

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“A citizenship question on the U.S. Census is toxic to New York’s four million immigrants, and all New Yorkers, who stand to lose millions of dollars in federal aid and political power in Congress,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

Choi added that to counter Trump’s efforts to politicize a traditionally nonpartisan and constitutionally mandated process, New York needs to organize and make sure all New Yorkers are counted in 2020.

In what is considered the strongest reaction, a coalition of 29 local community, labor and legal aid organizations denounced the Department of Commerce’s decision.

“The Census Bureau decision, if allowed, will intimidate immigrants and working-class people all over the country so they don’t participate in a census process that is crucial,” said the coalition.

“Our communities depend on accurate Census data to guarantee that they get the resources they deserve. The counting is used to determine representation in Congress and fair financing for the communities in those districts,” added the coalition, which includes, among others, the Alliance for Quality Education, Common Cause New York, Hispanic Federation, Immigrant Defense Project, Long Island Civic Engagement Table, Make the Road New York, Working Families Party and New York State Civic Engagement Table.

An “unnecessary question”

For its part, the Hispanic Federation blasted the Justice Department’s argument that a citizenship question is a necessary element to protect voting rights to prod the Commerce Department to change the census rules, as a “spectacularly shameless claim.”

“If anything has characterized President Trump and Attorney General Sessions’ views of voting rights it is their hostility to making voting easier, more accessible, and more reliable,” added the group.

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The union 32BJ SEIU joined the opposition and called on Congress to protect the fairness and integrity of the census, as they consider the question “dangerous” and should not be allowed in the 2020 Census process.

“Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision to add a widely criticized question about citizenship status in the 2020 U.S. Census is yet another example of Trump administration reforms, steeped in white supremacist values, that are meant to divide us and harm communities of color,” said Héctor Figueroa, President of 32BJ SEIU Kevin Brown, New Jersey state director of 32BJ SEIU.

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U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D) said he is “deeply concerned” about  the Trump administration and U.S. Census Bureau decision, arguing that it was taken without proper review and thus undermines the accuracy and reliability of the next census.

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Talking to El Diario, Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), said that the decision is “an affront to the federal government’s constitutional obligation of doing a complete count of the whole U.S. population.”

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“Asking about immigration in the census is an intimidation tactic with no purpose besides chilling immigrants’ participation and further vilifying immigrant communities. The collection of this information without knowing how it could be used is an especially terrifying prospect in the context of this presidential administration – an administration that openly denigrates immigrants, from undocumented parents to green card holders, and that has ramped up deportations and detentions, especially here in New Jersey,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha.

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