June 25, 2019

It’s all hands on deck for the 2020 Census

U.S. Census Bureau

Partial view of the headquarters building of the United States Census Bureau in Suitland, Maryland.

New Mexicans know exactly what they need to ensure each and every one of our families can succeed: fully funded public systems like our schools, hospitals, and roads –all vital for a prosperous state.

Unfortunately, this may not become a reality for N.M. if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of adding a controversial “citizenship question” to the upcoming 2020 census form. While this may not seem like a big deal to many, this question holds many implications for communities of color across our state.

The proposed “citizenship question” does not directly disclose the immigration status of a person residing in the country undocumented. Yet, the current political environment and increased immigration enforcement being carried out by the current federal administration has had an adverse effect on the public’s perception of the use of such question and the possible uses of this information in the near future.

It is important to remember that as mandated by our constitution, the Census is supposed to count every person, not every citizen, living in the U.S. every 10 years. But for 2020, unscrupulous politicians have been orchestrating a calculated and malicious plan to disenfranchise communities of color for two simple reasons: control and power!

Recent court filings demonstrated the federal administration has been fighting to include the “citizenship question” in the 2020 census form to use this data for gerrymandering purposes in 2021 –helping Republicans manipulate their way into power by purposefully suppressing census participation of non-white communities across the country. And at the same time denying much needed federal funding for people of color majority communities, further systematically depriving communities of their voice, equitable share of resources, and fair representation.

There are many doubts regarding whether or not the data gathered through the Census can be used against communities or individuals, but our families understand the benefits for our communities from participating in the decennial count, ensuring our communities’ needs are heard, outweighs the potential threats. The need to fully fund the programs our present and future generations need to succeed is a reality we will not be pushed away from. Besides, all information gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau must remain confidential as mandated by Title 13 of the U.S. Code.

We are proud to be part of the enormous collaboration and coordination effort happening right here in N.M. to ensure we count every one of our children and families to confidently say: “No scare tactics will deter our families from getting counted!”. Because our duty to protect and empower our communities and families is more powerful than any attempts by any politicians to try and silence us.

The well being of our communities for the next 10 years depends on making sure everyone of us accurately answers the Census. This is the first step to highlight the history of resilience in our state, as well as to honor the many sacrifices and challenges those before us have overcome to make sure we had a better future and life.

It will take each and every one of us to make sure we have all the funding possible for our communities and bring visibility to our families’ needs by speaking up for our communities and the future we deserve. We have the power to shape our future and it begins by getting counted on the 2020 Census.

Oriana Sandoval is the CEO of the Center for Civic Policy.