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This is an imperative moment for the state of Texas. The self-response deadline for the 2020 Census is approaching quickly, and the shortened deadline could result in an undercount of Black and Latino communities across Texas. According to the Texas Demographic Center, an undercount of just 1% of Texans could result in a loss of $300 million in federal funding for the state. For this reason, it is critical to understand the perpetual dilemma of not completing the Census — and the implicit consequences that an undercount imposes onto the immigrants of Texas.
Immigration has been at the forefront of the nation’s public debate for years, and it has even permeated into discussions around the 2020 Census. In 2019, the Trump administration carried a year-long legal debate to include a citizenship question in the country’s upcoming decennial head count. The administration was met with several lawsuits that fought to block the inclusion of the citizenship question, many of which argued that the inclusion of this question would disproportionately affect noncitizens and minority residents, excluding them from representation and federal funding. Unfortunately, the Trump administration doubled down on their mission to include the citizenship question in the upcoming census. Despite the ultimate retraction of the question from the Census, efforts to include immigration-related questions have sparked confusion in immigrant communities regarding their safety in participating in the 2020 Census.
In March, households across the nation received an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census through its first-ever online survey. Immigrant communities were reassured that their information would remain private under U.S Code Title 13, section 9, which states that data received by the Census Bureau may only be used for statistical purposes and cannot be given to other governmental bodies. For a moment, immigrants felt safe participating in the Census, including my own family. However, by mid-March the combination of the global health crisis and the July executive order excluding undocumented immigrants from the Census created uncertainty as to whether immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, should participate in the Census.
Uncertainty is nothing new to my family or myself. My family is just one of thousands of mixed-status families in Texas. My parents are legal permanent residents, my two siblings are American citizens, and I am a recipient of the Deferred Action of Child Arrivals (DACA) program. For decades, families like mine have faced several challenges made to silence and discourage us from participating in society. The weaponization of the Census to block undocumented immigrant communities from being counted as part of the U.S. is exclusionary and unconstitutional. It imposes unwarranted fear onto immigrants and could lead to a drastic undercount. Luckily, a unanimous three-judge panel in Federal District Court in New York struck down the order. Efforts continue to get out the count in Texas, especially among immigrants — who make up nearly 17% of the state population.
Immigrants play a critical role in ensuring Texas funding and political representation. My family and I completed the decennial count in order to support our community for the next ten years — and because we count. Despite efforts to exclude immigrants from the 2020 Census, it is clear — everyone counts and deserves to be counted.
To learn more about the 2020 Census, visit TexasCounts.org.