This week, households across the country started to receive an invitation to complete the U.S. 2020 Census. Amidst the chaos ensuing in the last couple of days because of the coronavirus and the controversy surrounding citizenship status questions in the Census, it is no surprise most people put completing the questionnaire at the bottom of their priorities or didn’t even plan to complete it at all. However, there has never been a more important time to participate in the U.S.Census.
The Census, which is meant to count every resident in the United States, is a once-in-a-decade occurrence that was written into the constitution during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency back in 1790. However, the Census is about so much more than counting heads; it is a way of determining how the federal government will distribute roughly 1.5 trillion dollars and congressional seats, among other things.
The problem is that for these appropriations to be done properly, the Census needs to be as accurate as possible, something that has long been a challenge for the government. This year, the challenge has been worsened out of fear that the Trump administration will use the data against immigrants. Last year, the president announced his intentions to reinstate a Census question that inquired about people’s legal status, prompting national backlash and leaving many people reluctant to complete the Census.
However, now that the Supreme Court ruled that the question would be excluded, many activists and politicians are urging immigrants, regardless of their status, to participate in the 2020 Census.
“Every single person, no matter your documentation status, no matter your housing status, income, etc., is to be counted,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., told Seth Meyers during an interview. “Your Census data is not shared with any other federal agency at all, so don’t worry if you’re having a creative living situation, it’s not going to be told to your landlord or anything crazy like that.”
And she is right.
Even though the Supreme Court technically sided with Trump in the sense that adding the citizenship question to the Census wouldn’t be unconstitutional and that he had the power to do so, they still blocked the question because the administration needed to come up with a better explanation for doing it.
“The reasoned explanation requirement of administrative law, after all, is meant to ensure that agencies offer genuine justifications for important decisions, reasons that can be scrutinized by courts and the interested public,” the ruling says. “If judicial review is to be more than an empty ritual, it must demand something better than the explanation offered for the action taken in this case.”
Although immigrants are still skeptical about participating, their forfeit might have far-reaching implications. Non-participation would skew the data and shape how billions of dollars will be allocated for many programs that serve lower-income families, including Head Start, Medicare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Pell grants for college and reduced-price school lunch program.
Furthermore, immigrants could greatly benefit from the power dynamics shift that their presence could bring upon Washington. Because congressional apportionment is based on Census data, states with a higher population of immigrants — like California, Texas, and New York — will be positively impacted by gaining an additional 10 seats in the U.S. Congress. Not only that, but researchers also estimate that 26 seats in the U.S. House could be flipped as a direct result of undocumented immigration, effectively flipping the House.
Every household will be mailed an U.S. Census invitation between Mach 12 and 20, and will have the opportunity to respond through mail, phone or email. If you need more information on how to complete the questionnaire, click here.