Census citizenship question should not be a way to intimidate immigrants

Census citizenship question should not be a way to intimidate immigrants
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Everybody has a stake in the upcoming May 8 congressional public hearing on the proposed 2020 Census citizenship question.

The announcement of the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 census is another way of terrorizing immigrants so that they live in fear of deportation, self-deport or underreport themselves. But the impact will be felt far beyond the immigrant community.

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An underreporting of our country’s largest minority group could affect school funding, road improvements and Congressional representation. If large demographic changes are not accounted for in the census, it will perpetuate under-representation of the most significant, fastest growing minority group in our country.

 

Inserting this question in the census would also have the same purposefully intimidating effect on immigrants as the SB-4 severe anti-immigration bill passed by the Texas legislature in 2017, which made local officials criminally liable for refusing to help the federal government enforce immigration law.

In my decade of work as an organizer with the Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation, I work with thousands of immigrants living with the pervasive fear of registering and taking their children to school, participating in church programs, or even going to the grocery store.

As organizers, we teach all Americans, both documented and undocumented, how to participate in public life. In November 2017 more than 1500 Dallas residents stood with a diverse group of institutional leaders that make up Dallas Area Interfaith, a non-partisan people’s organization.

They won commitments from three chiefs of local police departments (in Dallas, Carrollton and Farmers Branch) to recognize an alternative form of ID for undocumented immigrants to report a crime or identify themselves during a traffic stop. This happened because immigrants organized and worked for the common good. Immigrants want to be visible and participate in their community.

Five million immigrants call Texas home. Texas’ future is one of immigrants. We are the fastest growing state in the country and since 2010 Hispanics have accounted for half of Texas' population increase, and the trend is expected to continue. Texas is expected to double in population by 2050 to 54.4 million residents, almost as many people as California and New York combined. We need every federal dollar we can get to keep up with the population growth to build the infrastructure that will be needed.

An undercount in the 2020 census could affect the congressional representation of as many as 16 states. In Texas, we could lose three new congressional districts.

Immigrants not only affect our political representation, they also help our economy thrive. Eight million undocumented immigrants comprise our labor force. If we deport these immigrants the jobs they leave behind will have an economic impact on us all.

They also pay $11.6 billion per year in taxesThe census is mandated by our constitution so that everyone be counted regardless of immigration status. Its goal is to count persons not screen people for their immigration status.

On May 8, the US House of Representatives will hold a public hearing on adding the citizenship question to the 2020 census. Now would be a good time to let our representatives hear from us.

Josephine López Paul is lead organizer with Dallas Area Interfaith, part of the Industrial Areas Foundation and a Dallas GreenHouse Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project.