The Defender – Fighting Falsehoods for 2020 and Beyond

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November 26, 2019

Fighting Falsehoods for 2020 and Beyond

Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a count of all people living in the United States. The data from that count are used to allocate over $800 billion of government funding for services like schools, libraries, and health care, as well as to determine political representation in Congress, state capitols, and cities and towns across the country. Most census cycles, the biggest hurdle to participation is reaching traditionally hard-to-count communities. This time around, actions taken by the Trump Administration created a whole new set of challenges.

Back in early 2018, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, announced his decision to add a question to the 2020 Census asking about the citizenship status of residents. This question, last asked on the decennial census in 1950, was predicted to lead to an undercount of nearly 4 million people, jeopardizing access to resources for the next decade in the communities that need them most.

Secretary Ross claimed that he was adding the question at the request of the Justice Department, which allegedly needed the information to enforce the federal Voting Rights Act. After many months and multiple lawsuits, including one brought by Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliates, the truth was uncovered: the Commerce Department had asked the Justice Department to make the request in order to justify its decision.

This falsehood was crucial to the fate of the 2020 Census. When the case was taken up by the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s liberal minority to block the citizenship question from the census. 

This ruling was a victory for voting rights and census advocates across the country, but much work remains to be done in order to allay fears among immigrant communities that their census responses will be used against them. Confusion and concerns about census participation have been heightened by months of uncertainty about the citizenship question and years of attacks from the Trump Administration. 

Over the past year, we have held dozens of conversations, workshops, and presentations about the laws protecting census responses and the distinct challenges in promoting a complete count of immigrant communities. As we approach Census Day on April 1, 2020, we will continue these efforts and will continue to monitor the Trump Administration’s actions around the census and use of census data.  Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus is proud to be partnering with our sister affiliates and community-based organizations nationwide to dispel false rumors and ensure our communities are counted in 2020.

It’s on all of us to raise awareness about the importance of the 2020 Census and its implications for our communities over the next decade. Learn how you can get involved in outreach advocacy at CountUsIn2020.org.

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