In a recent email from Gary Bass, Executive Director of the Bauman Foundation, he cautions that there is still work to be done to ensure a fair and accurate count in 2020. The administration has dropped the request to have the citizenship question added to the census, but a lot of damage has already been done. There is increased fear and suspicion of government among historically undercounted groups like immigrants and refugees and these groups will need further encouragement to be fully counted.
Funders have an obligation to always look at the bigger picture, to look down the road at what is coming and be prepared. Even without the citizenship question on the census, the administration has announced a plan to collect administrative data from all parts of the government and to use statistical imputation methods to derive a dataset on citizens and non-citizens. The president also directed the Census Bureau to provide data on “the number of… illegal aliens in the country,” and for the new datasets be “compiled in connection with the census…” which was the goal of the citizenship question, but now will also have immigration status.
According to the administration, this “has nothing to do with enforcing immigration laws against particular individuals,.” but, census experts have already warned that the Census Bureau’s redistricting files and other statistical reports can provide the basis for further policy changes in federal programs across the government.
The fact that the citizenship question is not being added to the 2020 census is a major victory. But President Trump offered a vision for changing our democracy where not everyone is represented equally. This is not about who gets to vote. This is a fight about who gets to be represented in this country.
For funders, now is the time to double-down on funding for the census as well as these broader concerns.