Indian Americans will face a severe undercount in the 2020 Census, noted Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, during a national press call April 5. The call brought together several civil rights leaders who examined the impact of chronic underfunding and a new, untested question on citizenship to the accuracy of the 2020 Census count. The panelists concluded that the citizenship question would deter the immigrant community from responding.
Gupta, who served in the Justice Department’s civil rights division during the Obama administration, noted that many Indian Americans live in “mixed status” households, in which certain family members may be citizens whereas others are undocumented. Such households would be reluctant to respond to the Census survey, she said. “The level of distrust is already very high; it is pitched by the anti-immigrant rhetoric of this administration,” said Gupta, responding to a question. “The climate of fear created by the Trump administration will cause participation rates to plummet,” she asserted.
“Inclusion in the Census is very important to the functioning of our democracy,” said Gupta, underscoring the point that both federal dollars and representation in government are determined by Census data. She feared that insufficient federal resources would be allocated to minority communities based on an inaccurate Census count, and added that mayors around the country – of both parties – are concerned about potential cuts in federal revenue due to inaccuracies in Census data.
India is the home country for the fastest-growing population of undocumented Americans; almost half a million Indian Americans – one out of every six – lack requisite immigration documents, according to data culled from 2016 Department of Homeland Security statistics.
U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced late March 26 that a question about citizenship would be added to the 2020 Census, immediately sparking fierce backlash from the immigrant community that the question would lead to an undercount of the U.S. population.
California state Attorney General Xavier Becerra immediately filed a lawsuit. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman led a coalition of 18 attorneys general and six cities and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors to file a lawsuit April 2 which would block the administration from adding the citizenship question to the 2020 form.
“Ross caved to pressure. His decision is deeply flawed and a failure of leadership. It is a capitulation to Trump’s nativist agenda,” said Gupta during the press call. Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials – NALEO – stated that Ross’s decision to add the untested citizenship question to the Census was “the worst policy decision ever.”
“This is a tactic devised to keep people away from participating in the Census,” he said, noting that this is the first time an online Census will be implemented which could lead to a critical undercount of minority and rural communities who lack access to the internet.
John Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, noted that $800 billion of federal funding is allocated in accordance with Census population data. He added that businesses also use the data when determining where to set up shop, and in staffing decisions that mirror local communities.
Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, added that the new decision to count incarcerated people in the counties in which they are jailed, rather than their homes, would also lead to inaccurate data. He characterized an undercount of a specific community as racial discrimination. Morial served as chair of the 2010 Census Advisory Committee.