On August 6, the Law Center filed a public comment urging the Department of Commerce to remove the proposed citizenship question from the 2020 Census form. Our comments were among the more than 100 comments filed by organizations around the country. We contended that asking an untested question about citizenship status, particularly in the current climate of anxiety and uncertainty in immigrant communities, will increase fear and decrease participation in the Census. This will lead to those communities being under-counted, which in turn negatively affects the funding for vital social services.
“Not only is a nationwide census required by the Constitution, it is integral to the health and wellbeing of communities,” the comment states. Data from the Census is used to determine how at least $800 million in federal assistance is distributed to states, cities and families. About 61% of that funding is related to health programs, including Medicaid and CHIP, two programs which provide health coverage to 73.6 million Americans. The data used to calculate the amount of federal funding states receive for these programs comes from the Census, so under-counting of low-income immigrant communities could put some of this funding in jeopardy. “Any cuts to funding would almost certainly translate to fewer services for people receiving coverage through these programs,” the comment states, “putting access to care and health outcomes at risk for low-income children, adults and people with disabilities, including citizens.”
“The harm from this decision (if it is not reversed) would be universal,” the comment states, “with communities that are already at greater risk of being under-counted–including people of color, immigrants, young children and low-income rural and urban residents–suffering the most.” Read the full comment here.