Census citizenship question could prompt blank response

As community leaders grapple with how to handle ...

Posted: Mar 28, 2018 1:04 PM
Updated: Mar 28, 2018 1:04 PM

As community leaders grapple with how to handle a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, some are contemplating the idea of non-citizens leaving it blank while filling out the rest of the form to make sure that minority groups are still counted.

Several leaders who were part of the 2010 Census partner program -- designed to bring in local leaders "to raise awareness of and encourage participation" -- say that even though they oppose a citizenship question, they realize that discounting portions of the population will hurt some communities and are looking for a creative way of avoiding it.

"If they don't feel comfortable, that's their personal decision, but we want to make sure everyone gets counted," said Howard Shih, research and policy director for the Asian American Federation, who was part of the partner program in 2010 and expects to work with the Census again in 2020. "Typically if there is missing information, the person is still counted."

The problem is that avoiding the question may technically be against the law.

Census law says that anyone who "refuses or willfully neglects ... to answer, to the best of his knowledge, any of the questions" could be fined up to $100, and anyone who answers falsely could be fined up to $500.

Politifact reported in 2014 that it's been 50 years since anyone was fined under this statute.

"We're going to tell people to participate in the Census," said Clarissa Martinez de Castro, deputy vice president of UnidosUS. "I think there's still some consideration going on about how to deal with that question."

Typically, groups like these use their good relationships with members of the community that are at a higher risk for avoiding the Census to make sure as many people as possible get counted.

"This means the Census is getting more expensive and less accurate," said William O'Hare, a senior fellow at The Annie E. Casey Foundation, who said that if less people voluntarily respond to the census, then the government will have to pay more to send workers door-to-door to get responses.

O'Hare said he's unsure how he's going to advise people who are nervous about being truthful about their immigration status.

"I don't know, to tell you the truth," he said. "I am taking guidance from others. I am monitoring the Census and will continue to support the outreach efforts, but whether I will personally tell people I'm not sure. I think there are a whole bunch of folks who are considering options."

Other advocates say they will make the argument that avoiding the question, or the Census altogether, will play right into Trump's hands.

"I think there are challenges but we've got a built in message: Donald Trump doesn't want you counted, so make sure you count," said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, known by the acronym MALDEF. "The data is secure. It's critically important to be counted," he said, noting that because the question is about citizenship and not an immigration status, he will try to assure folks that "it can't really be used reliably for enforcement activities."

Earl Fowlkes, president of the Center for Black Equity, said even in 2010, he remembers people being nervous about answering questions, but said he always advised them to take the risk.

"Resources are more important that personal feelings of discomfort," Fowlkes said. "Not counting people translates into communities not receiving funding, and that's equally egregious in a way... It really translates into dollars for services and healthcare."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 445047

Reported Deaths: 5955
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin924911470
Ramsey39703735
Dakota32788331
Anoka30811360
Washington20004225
Stearns17775185
St. Louis13546240
Scott1189996
Wright11548102
Olmsted1035775
Sherburne815765
Carver691436
Clay648478
Rice600166
Kandiyohi552871
Blue Earth538033
Crow Wing479673
Otter Tail453464
Chisago449732
Benton416785
Winona386246
Douglas372466
Nobles366746
Mower362328
Goodhue343657
Polk327756
McLeod323144
Morrison310043
Beltrami308746
Lyon299835
Itasca282643
Becker281738
Isanti281141
Carlton278143
Steele27119
Pine265113
Freeborn241320
Todd230929
Nicollet223336
Brown213734
Mille Lacs212845
Le Sueur208515
Cass206123
Meeker198533
Waseca188816
Martin169126
Wabasha16883
Roseau165316
Hubbard148338
Redwood139227
Renville136539
Houston135313
Dodge13304
Chippewa130832
Cottonwood126518
Fillmore12215
Wadena119416
Rock109512
Sibley10797
Aitkin107133
Watonwan10618
Faribault104615
Pennington97715
Kanabec97218
Pipestone93823
Yellow Medicine93314
Murray8655
Jackson85010
Swift83018
Pope7355
Marshall70115
Stevens6978
Clearwater68514
Lac qui Parle65616
Lake62915
Wilkin6229
Koochiching59010
Lincoln4821
Big Stone4543
Unassigned43468
Grant4257
Norman4228
Mahnomen4087
Kittson37019
Red Lake3164
Traverse2473
Lake of the Woods1801
Cook1130

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 303065

Reported Deaths: 4267
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk45335447
Linn17673274
Scott15356163
Black Hawk13648236
Woodbury12945175
Johnson1202149
Dubuque11300149
Pottawattamie8934112
Dallas881171
Story863434
Webster467471
Cerro Gordo462968
Sioux453356
Clinton448361
Warren437538
Marshall425561
Buena Vista391529
Muscatine386177
Des Moines380641
Plymouth348868
Wapello340898
Jasper319658
Lee313530
Marion301752
Jones269649
Henry263230
Carroll253034
Bremer242048
Crawford228122
Boone216217
Washington214231
Benton208544
Jackson190831
Mahaska190736
Tama185657
Dickinson184226
Delaware172236
Kossuth170543
Clay166019
Wright162724
Fayette159522
Buchanan158023
Hamilton157829
Winneshiek154819
Harrison154462
Hardin153929
Cedar151419
Clayton150748
Butler146424
Page143715
Cherokee138127
Floyd137936
Mills136016
Lyon133632
Poweshiek132324
Hancock128824
Allamakee126827
Iowa122822
Calhoun12209
Grundy120026
Jefferson119524
Madison11869
Winnebago118229
Mitchell115634
Louisa114130
Cass112541
Chickasaw110512
Emmet110231
Sac110215
Appanoose109638
Union108122
Humboldt104219
Guthrie102224
Shelby101326
Franklin101218
Unassigned9210
Palo Alto9019
Keokuk84325
Montgomery84022
Howard82519
Monroe80518
Clarke7817
Pocahontas77211
Ida73830
Greene6887
Davis68721
Adair68620
Lucas6468
Osceola6349
Monona63316
Worth5983
Taylor5919
Fremont5036
Van Buren49412
Decatur4784
Ringgold4269
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