Advocates celebrate census victory

Advocates celebrate census victory
A mailed census letter that every household in the U.S. will receive for the 2020 headcount. A federal judge recently ordered the removal of a citizenship question on the form.
Associated Press / Michelle R. Smith

This month a federal judge in Manhattan ordered President Trump’s administration to remove a controversial citizenship question on the forthcoming 2020 census. U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman rejected the Department of Commerce’s decision to add the question.

The contentious question, which asks aboutthe citizenship status of each household member, has come under fire since the Census Bureau announced its inclusion early last year. Many immigration advocacy groups have largely opposed the question citing that requiring respondents to state their citizenship status will lead to further miscounting — in communities already undercounted due to fear. Such groups, like the Queens-based organization — Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), have worked tirelessly to raise awareness in neighborhoods with high concentrations of immigrants from Asia and the Caribbean, informing them to speak out.

Not since 1950 has a question on the census form asked its takers about their citizenship status. In his opinion, Furman said reviving it, “would depress the count for already “hard-to-count” groups — particularly noncitizen and Hispanics — whose members would be less likely to participate in the census for fear that the data could be used against them or their loved ones.”

Countless organizations have uttered similar thoughts, and now with a victorious sign that their voices were heard, this is one step closer to assuring the court ruling further delays, said an organizer with DRUM.

“For us as an organization, we are happy because this means our community will be able to have the opportunity to fill out the census without the fear of seeing a citizenship question,” said William Depoo.

He credits the triumphant news to the diligence of community organizations continually speaking out against the citizenship question, and those that filed lawsuits.

“This is really the work of a lot of grassroots groups like DRUM, that have been doing community outreach and workshops, and keeping the pressure on citizenship questions,” he said.

Many advocacy groups fervently protested against the question on the census, petitioning and rallying up signatures during the public comment period — a period where the public could submit their comment on census question.

With the likelihood of an appeal, Depoo said he was confident that any challenge led by the Trump administration will falter due to time.

“I definitely feel like Trump will appeal, but if it gets to the supreme court there probably won’t be enough time so I think at least for 2020 — we’re safe,” he said.

But the work is not done yet. Depoo said with more involvement from the community, DRUM plans to continue hosting their informative workshops and community-oriented events, and assuring that they are able to do so.

“Right now for us, the focus is on making sure we get the necessary funding to do census work, and make sure we are reaching our communities, and making sure they get counted,” he said.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected] Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.

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