Common Cause

For Immediate Release

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Jay Riestenberg, Deputy Communications Director, 202-736-5741, jriestenberg@commoncause.org

Groundswell of Opposition Tells Commerce Department to Scrap the Citizenship Question on 2020 Census

WASHINGTON - Common Cause joined more than 250,000 individuals and organizations to urge the Commerce Department to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census, citing the threat to census accuracy in all communities that will undermine the fair allocation of political representation, public resources, and private investment for the next decade. The organizations represent millions of people from every state and the District of Columbia, as well as diverse urban and rural communities.

Census stakeholders from a broad range of sectors and geographic areas voiced their concerns about the proposed addition of a new, untested citizenship question as part of a 60-day public comment period before the Census Bureau (an agency of the Commerce Department) finalizes major 2020 Census operations and questionnaire content. Under the public comment process, the Commerce Department must consider and respond (at least in summary terms) to the submissions prior to seeking clearance from the Office of Management and Budget for the 2020 Census plan and questionnaire.

Common Cause and its network of 30 state offices organized nearly 17,000 individual comments to the Commerce Department in opposition to the citizenship question being added to the 2020 Census. Common Cause also submitted comments on behalf of the organization’s 1.2 million members and activists, which you can find here.

“Everyday Americans are speaking up for an impartial and accurate Census. Adding a citizenship question will weaponize the census against communities of color, diluting their right to political representation and cutting them off from public spending,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “Experts across the political spectrum, and now over 100,000 Americans, have weighed in against the addition of the question. It is well past time for Secretary Ross to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census.”

“This egregious citizenship question is a political effort to weaponize the census to redefine American democracy for a narrow set of people, and it must not stand” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund. “The Trump administration is trying to fundamentally change what this country is, and aspires to be, by creating different classes of people. The Constitution requires the Census to count each and every person – and the inclusion of this question will sabotage that solemn duty. But it is clear that a diverse community of people and organizations from across the nation are committed to protecting and demanding a fair and accurate census so that no one is left behind.”

“We’re proud to see so many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders take the initiative to voice their opinion about the extreme harm the citizenship question is likely to have on getting an accurate census count of our communities,” said John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “With so many in our community who are either children of immigrants or immigrants themselves, this might be the first time they are participating in a census. We need to be sure that a potentially toxic, untested and unnecessary question does not deter our community from being counted accurately.”

“Americans across the country have made clear their unequivocal opposition to the politicization of Census 2020 through the addition of a citizenship question,” said Arturo Vargas, chief executive officer of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund. “If implemented, this harmful and costly decision would have far reaching implications for Latinos and all Americans, depressing response rates and threatening the fair and equitable distribution of political representation and billions of dollars in federal funding. As policymakers at all levels — federal, state and local — our nation’s Latino officials rely on a full and dynamic picture of who is residing in their communities in order to focus critical resources and act in the best interests of their constituents. We will continue to fight against the addition of this question in both Congress and the courts to ensure that Latino policymakers are able to do their jobs effectively and that the U.S. Census Bureau’s mission of counting every single person living in this country each decade, regardless of age, citizenship, ethnicity or race, is not compromised.”

“The addition of a citizenship question to the census is yet another attack on immigrants from this administration,” said Jennifer Bellamy, legislative counsel at the ACLU. “Experts agree that the question’s inclusion will dramatically reduce the participation of immigrant communities, stunting their growing political influence and depriving them of economic benefits. The impact of lower response rates for communities and states with large immigrant populations will be catastrophic and far-reaching, affecting education, transportation, health care, and voting power. We must stop this question from being included, and ensure that the true purpose of the census—to count all people living in the United States—is protected.”

“The census is an essential tool for understanding and shaping our country’s economic and social realities,” said Thea Lee, president of EPI. “Adding an untested, disruptive, and controversial question, which will certainly deter key groups from participating in the decennial count, is policy malpractice. The administration should listen to the tens of thousands of policymakers, economists, sociologists, and members of the public who have weighed in, and withdraw its flawed proposal immediately.”

“The addition of a citizenship question targets Black communities and other communities of color,” said Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change. “Trump and his cronies Jeff Sessions and Wilbur Ross at the Commerce Department are changing the rules with the simple goal: to make Black people, people of color and our communities invisible. If they can say we don’t exist through the Census, then they can chip away at our right to vote, at fair inclusion of our communities in critical resources and make the American Dream that much harder to realize. This is a long held project of the same forces that defend white nationalists who march in American cities and chip away at school integration and voter protection — more than ever we must stand up, push back and hold those who enable this behavior accountable.”

"Donald Trump is trying to use the census to rig elections for Republicans until 2030," said Heidi Hess, co-director of CREDO Action. "If a discriminatory citizenship question is included in the 2020 census it could result in a major undercounting of immigrant communities. It's a desperate attempt to supercharge right-wing gerrymandering and voter suppression – and the public sees right through it."

"A fair and accurate Census is crucial to equitable distribution of our nation's resources and political power for the next decade, and the last-minute, haphazard addition of a question designed to diminish participation from communities already at high risk of being undercounted must not be permitted," said Carolyn Fiddler, communications director at Daily Kos. "The government has a constitutional duty to correctly count every person living in the United States, regardless of citizenship status, and questioning respondents' citizenship will depress participation and skew counts in already-underserved populations. We call on the Department of Commerce to keep this untested, unnecessary question off of the 2020 Census."

“Thousands of MomsRising members submitted comments to the Secretary of Commerce because we recognize that a discriminatory question that drives down participation in the Census and forces an undercount of immigrants would cause grave harm,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director and CEO of MomsRising, the online and on-the-ground organization of more than one million mothers and their families. “This is another disgraceful attack on immigrants – another example of the Trump administration using racism and xenophobia to divide us. The moms of America want discriminatory questions removed from the Census so we can get an accurate count, which in turn will support fair distribution of health, housing, education and other resources to our communities.

“It’s critical that the census provide an accurate picture of every community in our country,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way. “Adding an untested, politically motivated question about citizenship dangerously undermines that goal. Adding this question to the census won’t help anyone learn more about the makeup of our country, but it will make more people nervous about participating in the census. That may be good news for political activists who want to dilute the power of communities of color, but it’s very bad news for our country as a whole and for anyone who cares about our democracy.”

"Adding a citizenship question to our census threatens to erase immigrants from our country’s records,” said Bridgette Gomez, director of Latino leadership and engagement at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “If you aren’t accounted for, you do not exist as far as resource distribution is concerned. We know immigrants already have a very difficult time accessing health care, as lack of health insurance and fear of detention and deportation have driven communities farther and farther into the shadows under the Trump administration. At Planned Parenthood, we believe that no one’s access to services should be compromised because they belong to an immigrant family or community. We strongly condemn the Trump-Pence administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census. And we are committed to fighting alongside a bipartisan group of former census directors, our communities, and partners to speak against this injustice.”

“Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross directed the Census Bureau to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census form for one reason only: To intimidate and frighten recent immigrants – including both citizens and noncitizens – so they don’t fill out their census form. In overwhelming numbers, Americans are denouncing his not-so-disguised anti-immigrant cruelty and demanding the question be removed, so the Census can meet its constitutional obligation to deliver a true and accurate count,” said Robert Weissman, president, Public Citizen.

"The American people will not tolerate the Trump Administration exploiting the census in order to carry out their racist and xenophobic policies,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Donald Trump cannot decide which communities receive support, and which don't have access to clean air and water. It's reprehensible that Donald Trump would try to blatantly undermine the Constitution. But together, with our allies and the hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country that have already spoken, we will protect the integrity of the census, protect our democracy, and protect our communities and the environment."

 To view this release online, click here.

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Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.

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