For many community advocates in the Central Valley, the U.S Supreme Court’s decision to block the citizenship question from the 2020 Census is a huge victory that eliminates one barrier to ensuring a fair and accurate count of all communities, including historically undercounted groups like young children, immigrants, low-income families, and communities of color.
Now advocates are calling on Valley residents to participate in census after Supreme Court’s decision. The court said the Trump administration’s explanation for adding the question about citizenship is insufficient and sent it back to the lower courts for further consideration.
The U.S Constitution mandates that a census of the population be counted once every 10 years for the purposes of apportioning Congress.
Advocates and members of the Fresno Complete County Committee said the proposed addition of a citizenship question created significant fear, mistrust, and confusion but outreach efforts seek to provide full support for census participation. Many believe that the addition of a citizenship question to the census was an explicit, racially discriminatory orchestrated attack on immigrant and Latino communities.
“Federal law prohibits individual information from the census to be used against anyone by immigration authorities, a court of law, local housing agencies, law enforcement agencies, or any other government officials, for any reason whatsoever,” said Samuel Molina, California state director of Mi Familia Vota and co-chair of the Fresno County Complete Count Committee.
Fresno County Complete Count Committee members includes Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, Radio Bilingue, The Jakara Movement, Resources for Independence Central Valley, The Fresno Center, First 5 of Fresno County, Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative, Centro La Familia, Hmong Innovating Politics, City of Fresno, County of Fresno, Planned Parenthood MarMonte, Central Valley Urban Institute, Council on American Islamic Relations, Asian Business Institute and Resource Center, Diocese of Fresno, Proteus Inc., League of Women Voters, Fresno County Office of Education, Fresno Unified School District, and individual community members.
“Only once in a decade do we get a chance to accurately count our population and try to get more equity for our region in political representation and funding,” said Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas outside the Robert E. Coyle Federal Building in downtown Fresno during a June 27 press conference organized by the Fresno County Complete Count Committee.
“Knowing that funding for healthcare, free school lunch program, after school programs, WIC, Head Start and multiple other programs depend on census numbers, knowing how many people are in a given place is the basis for determining where the need is,” said Jonasson Rosas, adding that for more than a year, community organizations have been meeting to organize their efforts to make sure everyone is counted.
“We knew this citizenship question issue was looming in the background, threatening our ability to get an accurate census,” said Jonasson Rosas who works as strategy and communication officer for the Fresno Economic Opportunity Commission and is a Fresno Unified School District board trustee representing area 2.
According to Jonasson Rosas, focus groups and surveys conducted in the area with people from all backgrounds showed them that those people would not fill out the census if it included a citizenship question.
“People don’t trust that the government wouldn’t use this information to harm their family,” she said, adding the question was about stoking fear that would result in reducing political representation in immigrant communities. “This was about reducing the amount of funding to areas of the county where people would be too scared to fill out the census. I am talking places like the Central Valley, like Fresno County.”
“We do not get our fair share. We send more money to the federal government than we get back. And a lot of that is rooted in the census,” Jonasson Rosas said.
Census data is also used to determine how more than $675 billion in federal funds are distributed back to states and local communities every year for services and infrastructure, including healthcare, housing, and affordable housing, jobs, schools, roads, and businesses.
“We know we’ve been perpetually undercounted. We know it in our schools that are overcrowded, in our hospitals with long waiting times, in our housing services that are oversubscribed and in virtually every other service government provides,” Jonasson Rosas said. “We cannot afford to have an undercount any longer.”
The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to block, for now, the Trump administration’s attempt to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census.
“The inclusion of that question is unnecessary and could cripple the massive effort to attain a correct count in California. This is especially true in the 31st District that I represent, which is home to populations that are difficult to count, including immigrants, young children, and communities of color,” said Assembly member Dr. Joaquin Arámbula, D-Fresno, of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to block, for now, the Trump administration’s attempt to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Arámbula is a member of the Assembly Select Committee on the Census.
State Sen. Thomas J. Umberg, D-Santa Ana and chair of the California Census Committee, said “the Supreme Court made the correct decision to not add the citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census, but the fight is not over, and we will remain vigilant.”
“Donald Trump began his candidacy by attempting to ostracize, undermine, and demonize major portions of the population, particularly here in California,” said Umberg. “If Californians do not participate in next year’s census, the Trump Administration wins.”
“I am pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the law and a pillar in our democracy. Our constitution calls for every person to be counted and including the citizenship question would have erased ‘hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of people,” said Dr. Richard Pan, state senator and Chair of the Senate Select Committee on the 2020 United States Census. “I am committed to ensure everyone is counted as our founders intended.”
“This decision, while complicated, is so important because it temporarily blocks the citizenship question, which we know the Administration created to intentionally intimidate Latinos from being counted, lock-in a Republican majority, and steal billions in federal funds from our communities. Although this fight is not over, justice and power remain with the people because of this ruling,” said congressman Joaquín Castro, D-Texas and chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
“The evidence is clear that Trump’s attempt to question the citizenship of everyone living in America is just a blatant ploy to intimidate our nation’s diverse communities,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “With the threat of a citizenship question, this Administration has created a pervasive fear of the federal government in many communities. Our census outreach remains critical to preserving this important pillar of American democracy.”
Padilla said the state is “making an unprecedented investment in census outreach in order to stand up to the unprecedented challenges created by this Administration. We will continue to build a network of partnerships with respected leaders and trusted voices in communities throughout the state to educate and assist all Californians in participating in the census.”
“This is good for today, but the evidence is clear: The Trump administration is trying to add the citizenship question to the census to intimidate our immigrant communities,” California Latino Legislative Caucus chairwoman and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego said.
“We must continue to be vigilant on this issue. Everyone must be counted to ensure we are rightfully received funds and are appropriately represented,” California Latino Legislative Caucus Vice Chairwoman María Elena Durazo, D-Los Ángeles.