by Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño
As Christians we believe that all people should be valued, accounted for and cared for. In the US one of the fundamental ways to do this is our Census. Conducted at the end of every decade, makes 2020 a Census year. All people living in the US need to be counted.
However, widespread fear and mistrust was sown in immigrant communities across the US when the US Department of Justice requested the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Immigrants, regardless of their immigration status, feared that answering the question might bring them under the scrutiny of Homeland Security and possible deportation, or cause other judicial actions to be brought against them. The issue of including the question of citizenship was challenged all the way to the US Supreme Court.
When the case of including a citizenship question on the 2020 Census came before the Supreme Court, the Court requested further information from the Trump Administration as to why the citizenship question should be included. Presidents must offer information to justify inclusion of questions like citizenship on the national Census.
The Administration's response was that everyone should know who lives in America. This response was found inadequate to support the inclusion of a citizenship question. In a June 2019 decision the US Supreme Court struck down the Administration's inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census.
The 2020 Census does not include any question about whether a person is a citizen of the United States but many, including immigrants, don’t know that the citizenship question has been removed from the 2020 Census and out of fear may not participate in the Census. This raises the concern of whether the Census will provide an accurate count of the US population and its location.
Young adults under 30 are another group at risk for being under-represented for failure to respond to the Census because of a lack of awareness. The 2020 Census would be the first time they have the opportunity to be counted and may miss the significance of being counted.
It is crucial for all of us to be counted so that federal resources and voting districts are distributed and drawn to support all of the people living in states and communities around the country. The information provided by the Census will determine how much each state will receive for schools, infrastructure and other public needs. More than $880 billion dollars of federal funding are at stake, and in some cases the Census count will determine how districts are drawn for state and local elections.
In a 2015 study redistricting strategist Thomas Hofeller concluded that adding the citizenship question to the 2020 census would alter voting districts by creating an artificial invisibility of people of color. There is wide suspicion that the question was added perhaps not to deport people but to undercount immigrants and other people of color who might be fearful of the Census in order to redraw voting districts that would favor one political party above another.
Everyone eligible, documented and undocumented, young and older adults, should participate in the 2020 Census. Our local churches can help get people counted. I encourage our United Methodist churches to support an open and inclusive 2020 Census by finding ways to help people be counted in the 2020 Census. Be a safe place and provide support for all people in your communities in a critical process for caring for all people that unfortunately has become very politically charged.