Census Bureau sets off opposition to decision to halt data collection early for 2020

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Sunset Park leaders on Aug.2 seeking residents to take part in the census so that the maximum number of people are counted to get city, state and federal funding. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

An announcement by the U.S. Census Bureau to end data collection for the 2020 survey of households up to three months early was not well-received by New Yorkers involved in generating an accurate count.

U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham says the Sept. 30 cutoff – a month early – was instated in order to prepare to meet the Dec. 31 deadline for the agency’s findings, but leaders in the five boroughs claim this is a deliberate effort to disenfranchise working-class families.

New York City Census Director Julie Menin, for example, said that this is an opportunity to undercount communities in cities that are predominantly liberal to deprive federal resources in the future.

“This is nothing but a disgusting power grab from an Administration hell-bent on preserving its fleeting political power at all costs. From day one, it has been abundantly clear that Donald Trump is going to try everything possible to stop New Yorkers from filling out the census, and now, amid a global pandemic that’s severely impacted outreach, they are straight-up trying to steal it. The Trump Administration’s cynical political ploy is designed with one thing in mind: rewarding their political friends and harming cities like New York. They should be ashamed.”

With less than two months to go before the bureau’s deadline, Dillingham says only 63% of households in the country have been surveyed, meaning only 93 million have filled out the questionnaire. And the decisions comes less than a month after President Donald Trump issued a memorandum that communities heavy with undocumented immigrants would be excluded from apportionment.

“This last-minute change is a clear tactic by the Trump administration to undermine the accuracy of the census,” Theo Oshiro, Deputy Director at Make the Road New York, said. “Having an accurate count means communities across New York and the country get the full amount of resources and representation we deserve. Trump wants the opposite—he wants to erase us and further devastate communities that have been hardest-hit by COVID-19. We will continue to resist the administration’s reckless attacks on the Census and demand a full, fair count.”

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is attempting to prevent an early deadline to for the survey to be filled by modifying a bill she introduced in May, H.R. 7034. 

“For the 2020 decennial census of population, the Bureau of the Census shall conclude the Nonresponse Followup operation and the send-response operation no earlier than Oct. 31, 2020,” the bill’s new language reads.

The 2020 census effort under the direction of the Trump administration has mired the effort in anxiety for most of his term, especially after a question was added in 2017 regarding the immigration status of individuals in households. This was later overturned by a federal judge, but now the negative implications for undocumented immigrants in the 2020 census have returned.

On July 21, President Trump signed a memorandum to the Secretary of Commerce that undocumented immigrants, whether they’re counted or not, be excluded from apportionment of representation in government or resources supplied by the federal government.

“The Constitution does not specifically define which persons must be included in the apportionment base,” the memorandum reads. “Although the Constitution requires the “persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed,” to be enumerated in the census, that requirement has never been understood to include in the apportionment base every individual physically present within a State’s boundaries at the time of the census.”

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