July 2, 2019; New York Times
Even before the sun set on the July 1st deadline, and in a victory for advocates, the Census Bureau was ordered to start printing forms for the 2020 count with no question to be included about respondents’ citizenship.
This comes as a relief and something of a welcome surprise, because last week, President Trump vowed to do what he could to delay the census, “no matter how long,” in order to win the question’s inclusion. The directive came in the form of a one-sentence email from the Justice Department to lawyers for plaintiffs in a New York lawsuit.
Opposition to the citizenship question was rooted among local governments and advocacy groups representing ethnic minorities, all of whom feared that the question’s mere presence on the census would deter non-citizens and even legal immigrants from filling out the form for fear of government retaliation.
Sign up for our free newsletters
Subscribe to NPQ's newsletters to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.
The groups’ victory on Tuesday may have eased that threat, but hardly eliminated it. The public controversy over the issue has already stirred fears of retribution among many immigrants, who say they will avoid filling out the census form even if the question is not asked.
New York Attorney General Letitia James says that outreach campaigns will have to be very robust in the coming year, and we know that that means that nonprofits must mobilize, especially in communities that feel threatened by what has occurred.
“Now is the time to shift gears and begin robust education and outreach campaigns to ensure each person in this country is counted,” says James, the attorney general of New York, which was one of the suit’s plaintiffs. “Everyone counts, therefore everyone must be counted.”—Ruth McCambridge