RE: Comments on Proposed Information Collection on 2020 Census, Docket No. USBC-2018-0005
On behalf of Prosperity Works, we write to offer comments on the 2020 Census proposed information collection plan. Prosperity Works is a 501(c)(3) organization based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our dedicated and experienced staff works towards a vision of New Mexico where every person has access to the opportunities, knowledge and relationships to achieve economic prosperity. We accomplish this by advocating across public and private sectors to change attitudes, behaviors and policies that reinforce systemic poverty. We also leverage a network of community partners throughout the state to connect New Mexicans to opportunities for greater financial inclusion and asset-building.
We urge the Department of Commerce to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census form, as it will jeopardize the accuracy of the census in all communities – an outcome that New Mexicans will have to live with for the next 10 years. Asking about citizenship status can only depress response rates, cost additional taxpayer money, and thwart an accurate, inclusive 2020 enumeration.
We believe a full, fair, and accurate census, and the collection of useful, objective data about our nation’s people, housing, economy, and communities, is vitally important. Not only is a nationwide census required by the Constitution, it is integral to our democracy, ensuring that district lines and political power are fairly drawn and allocated. The federal government uses census-derived data to direct at least $800 billion annually in federal assistance to states, localities, and families. The data also guide important community decisions affecting schools, housing, health care services, business investment, and much more.
New Mexico is already highly susceptible to a census undercount. The state is home to a large share of hard-to-count populations, including immigrants, Native Americans, Latinos, and people living in rural areas, in areas without internet service, and in poverty. Young children―defined as children under age five―have also been undercounted for decades. This undercount disadvantages their families, communities, and neighborhoods. New Mexico has the highest percentage in the nation of young children in hard-to-count areas (52 percent).
A citizenship question is very likely to exacerbate New Mexico’s already problematic count. That is why the 2020 Census should not include a question on citizenship. The weight of scientific evidence indicates that such a question will undermine a successful count of our nation’s people. A citizenship question will result in many immigrants—regardless of their legal status—not being counted because they may distrust how this information may be used. When immigrants aren’t counted, their children also aren’t counted—even though 80 percent of children with immigrant parents are, themselves, U.S. citizens. New Mexico, as one of 12 states with a larger share of undocumented immigrants than the national average, would be disproportionately impacted by the addition of a citizenship question.
Such an addition may also result in an undercount of the nation’s Native American communities. Native American tribal members who self-identify as citizens of their tribal nations may respond “no” if asked whether they are citizens of the United States. This concern is expressly stated in a lawsuit that was recently filed by several New Mexico groups and tribes. The subsequent miscount, loss of federal funding, and loss of political representation would disproportionately hurt New Mexico, as our population has one of the largest shares of Native Americans in the nation.
Even before Secretary Ross’s decision to place a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, state and local officials and community leaders were deeply concerned about the difficulty of achieving robust participation in many communities. In the current political environment, immigrants feel demonized, and their worst fears are realized when federal agents invade homes, schools, and places of worship, and families are torn apart both at the U.S. border and in their communities. Not surprisingly, the request has drawn intense opposition from a nonpartisan and ideologically broad group of business leaders, state and local officials, social scientists, and civil and human rights advocates who know how much is at stake with a fair and accurate census. We stand united in their deep-seated concern that an untested citizenship question will compromise implementation of the 2020 Census and jeopardize the quality and accuracy of census data for all communities.
A full, fair, and accurate census is absolutely critical for our state and nation. For the reasons discussed above, we strongly oppose asking about citizenship status in the 2020 Census and urge the Department of Commerce to remove the proposed citizenship question from the data collection forms.
Ona Porter, President & CEO
Jill Geltmaker, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives
Michael Barrio, Director of Advocacy
Prosperity Works Staff