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What’s at Stake in the Census? Rep. Judy Chu Is Happy to Tell You

Location

Alhambra , CA United States

The issue of adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census form took another turn Wednesday afternoon when the U.S. Justice Department reversed course and said that on the orders of President Trump it was again searching for a way to include the question. This move came just 24 hours after the DOJ said that it would not ask for such information from those completing the census.

Rep. Judy Chu, whose 27th Congressional District has been called one of the most vulnerable districts in the country when it comes to achieving an accurate count, had joined federal, state and local officials in applauding the initial Justice Department announcement. It came on the heels of the Supreme Court ruling last week that blocked the citizenship question but left open the door for the Administration to offer new justification for including such a question. Much of that optimistic feeling was likely dashed with Wednesday’s DOJ reversal.

The 27th Congressional District runs from Upland in the east to Alhambra in the west. With its large Asian, Latino and immigrant communities, the 27th is deemed vulnerable as residents may be unwilling to come forward and be counted in the current charged political environment.

Rep. Chu has for some time now been at the forefront of raising public awareness about the census in her district, meeting with advocacy groups and local officials on the importance of an accurate  count. In a statement following the initial Justice Department announcement, Rep. Chu said “Our task now is to ensure every family is able to fill out a census and that every person is counted.”  

In an e-mail exchange before the Supreme Court decision, The Alhambra Source asked Rep. Chu for her thoughts on the census, the citizenship question and what it all means for her district and her constituents. 

 

Q—What specifically is at stake for your district in this census count? 

A—The stakes for our district are high. For every person that is not counted, we will lose $2,000. That’s money that will be lost from vital programs like Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), Medicare, Part B, housing vouchers (Section 8), highway planning construction, new schools, special education grants (IDEA), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Head Start. What is at stake is more than $800 billion dollars allocated to all the states for these programs, with nearly $100 billion of that funding going to California. An undercount could also lead to California wrongly losing a seat in Congress, meaning our voices would have less weight in the federal government, even though our area represents more people. This is unfair and would deny Southern Californians fair representation.

Q—I believe this is the second census that’s occurred since you were elected to Congress in 2009. How has the landscape changed since your first census experience?

A—The main difference now is that instead of seeking the most accurate census possible, this President is intentionally setting the stage for an undercount. Previously, our focus was more on making sure the census was available in more languages so that more individuals would be able to participate. Now we’re also trying to make sure the census isn’t being used to advance a xenophobic political agenda. 

Q.-What do you see as the biggest threat to an accurate count in the 2020 Census?

A—Without a doubt it is the inclusion of a citizenship question. Census questions are typically tested long before being added precisely because we want to make sure they won’t negatively impact the census. The citizenship question was never tested and was rushed as part of an attempt to politicize the census. We’ve even seen from court documents that the question was added with the assistance of a Republican strategist looking to help “Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.” 

Q—The Supreme Court is expected to decide on the citizenship question on the 2020 Census form. What advice are you giving concerned parties in your district on how to deal with that decision?

A—In May, I met with representatives from nearly every city in my district to emphasize what is at stake and how we can overcome the inclusion of a citizenship question. I am urging every city to create a complete count committee that will take steps to ensure that every person is counted, because the stakes for our local communities are too high. We’ll continue working together leading up to April 2020 with our community partners to ensure we get an accurate count in our area.

Q—Are there specific ethnic groups in your district that are more at risk than others of being undercounted in this census?

A—The intention of the citizenship question is to intimidate communities with large immigrant populations, like ours. Latinos and AAPIs in particular would be likely undercounted. 

Q—You recently had a meeting in Arcadia with a number of local officials. Can you tell us about the meeting? Who was there? What you learned from their concerns? What recommendations did you offer about getting an accurate census count?

A—I met with representatives from nearly every city in my district to emphasize what is at stake and how we can overcome the inclusion of a citizenship question. In fact, many cities raised concerns that their residents had about the census. Several of them represent minority-majority communities who are afraid that if they answer the question the data might be used against them, especially if they have an undocumented family member. This is why its so important to do outreach in these communities and explain to them the importance of the census and how it will impact them. Because of the Trump administration there is understandably a great deal of fear about this topic, but its important for all of us to be brave and make sure we are counted because our voice in government depends on it.

Independent journalism is a bedrock of democracy--and it's in crisis. Here at the Alhambra Source, we're committed to covering the local stories that matter most to you. We don’t have advertisers and we don’t have pay walls, but we do have bills. You read to the end of this story. That's great. But this kind of journalism will end without public support. Join us! Support the work and the democratic values it serves. Donate now!

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