“Are you a citizen?” This isn’t a good question for 2020 census

Recently, the Commerce Department announced that the 2020 census would include a question about citizenship. Trump administration officials say it is essential to help monitor voter demographics and protect minority voting rights. However, I believe that this decision is terrible for the census and bad for our communities.

The census occurs once every 10 years, so it is essential to get the most accurate count. Communities rely heavily on census data, and a fair, reasonable number allows for our leaders to make decisions that keep our communities thriving. From apportioning our national representatives, to making decisions about public safety and neighborhood resources, the census impacts every aspect of our lives. This is because the census determines where and how over $600 billion in federal funding is allocated.

What does this mean for Texas? Well, it might mean that we have to prepare for the worst. The Justice Department argues that the citizenship data is critical to enforcing the Voting Rights Act, even though the census has not included a citizenship question since 1950. Critics suggest the revival of a citizenship question could undermine the proper count in minority communities, particularly in those with large populations of undocumented immigrants

This could not have come at a worse time. In Texas, the US-Mexico tensions are already amplified because of its proximity to the border. The heavy anti-immigration rhetoric evident in the enactment of Senate Bill 4, also known as the “Anti-Sanctuary Cities” bill, a Texas law requiring enforcement agencies to comply with U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) detainers, has instilled uncertainty and fear in Latinx communities. With this stems a lot of distrust between these communities and local law enforcement, and the census will only increase these tensions.

The question goes against what Trump and his administration are arguing. The citizen question would reduce the response rates in the census and produce inaccurate answers instead of creating more accurate results. A large amount of funding already goes into getting a high response rate for the census, and a citizenship question will make it more difficult and more expensive.

Not just that, but the census threatens citizens and non-citizens alike from participating in a critical document that determines critical decisions from district lines to funding. This is just another way for Trump to continue to target immigrant communities and other vulnerable populations. As a result, this will continue to allow representatives to draw skewed legislative districts and poorly distribute funds.

The census is a reflection of our country’s politics: poisoned in bias. Including a citizenship question on the census undermines the rights of eligible voters and threatens a process vital to our democracy. Efforts such as these continue to exacerbate the crisis of vulnerable populations who are constantly being targeted through several efforts by the administration. The long-term harm of the citizenship question will lead to improper representation due to the lack of participation in the census, which could lead to less funding allocated towards Texas.