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Our Statement on the Census 2020 Citizenship Question Oral Arguments at the Supreme Court

Cecilia Clarke, president and CEO of Brooklyn Community Foundation, the first and only public foundation dedicated to New York City’s largest borough, released the following statement in response to today’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court on whether Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross can legally add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Beginning in January, federal judges in New York, California and Maryland ruled against the government and granted injunctions against inclusion of the citizenship question.

“We applaud those states, cities and organizations who have stood up against the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. The change is clearly designed to intimidate immigrants, thwarting their participation in the decennial survey, and consequently punishing  cities with large immigrant populations, like Brooklyn, who largely oppose the exclusionary, anti-immigrant policies of the Trump Administration. We hope that the Supreme Court sides with the lower courts in ruling that the question violates the Constitution’s mandate to count the country’s residents, not citizens, through the Census.

If the question is included in the 2020 Census, New York, and Brooklyn in particular, will be undercounted, underfunded, and underrepresented for the next decade, resulting in a loss of billions of dollars in federal funding for healthcare, education, and social services, as well as up to two Congressional seats at a time when every vote counts. Even without a citizenship question, in the 2010 Census, Brooklyn had the lowest mail return rate (just 67%) of any county in the United States with a population over 500,000 people.

Almost 40% of Brooklyn residents (950,000) are foreign-born immigrants, and over half of all households speak a language other than English at home. The borough is also home to the largest black community in the United States. Each of these groups on their own, much less together, is already historically undercounted in the Census nationally. A citizenship question would only exacerbate the underrepresentation and under-resourcing of marginalized communities and increase the distrust of the government that is already prevalent. By the government’s own estimates, 6.5 million people would stop participating because of a citizenship question, which would clearly compromise the accuracy and utility of the 2020 Census.”

Advocacy, Census 2020