Inside The Massive, Coordinated Push To Make Sure A Census Citizenship Question Does Not “Distort Democracy”

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Trump administration’s decision to ask people about their citizenship status on the 2020 census has galvanized a national coalition of civil rights advocacy groups to build a coordinated effort to make sure immigrants and their families are counted by the US government, funded by progressive philanthropic organizations including the Ford Foundation and George Soros’s Open Society Foundations.

The question of whether the question can be added to the census is the highest-profile case still before the Supreme Court this month. Civil rights groups worry that the question would deter noncitizen immigrants, from undocumented people to green card holders and people living in the US on other visas, from taking part in the census. They say that’s particularly concerning given the Trump administration’s attempts on several fronts to target various immigrant communities, including green card holders from Muslim countries included in the travel ban who were initially excluded from coming back to the US.

Advocates argue that the question could have a chilling effect and lead to an inaccurate census, which is used to make major decisions throughout government, including determining congressional representation.

“When I found out the citizenship question was a potential to be on the form I decided to rejoin, like, this is the fight,” said Lizette Escobedo, director of National Census Program at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, who worked on the 2010 census.