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Politics

Simotas Urges Rejection of Citizenship Status Question on 2020 U.S. Census

March 27, 2018

NEW YORK – Assemblymember Aravella Simotas urged the Commerce Department to reject any attempt to add a question concerning citizenship status to the 2020 Census. She wrote to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Jr. on March 23, at the request of Queens Congressional Representatives Grace Meng and Carolyn Maloney and said in her letter, “I am deeply concerned that a citizenship question would deter many of my constituents from participating in the census.”

In her letter to Secretary Ross, Simotas noted that Queens is home to a large population of immigrants and with heightened fears of deportations and anxiety about the confidentiality of government data, inclusion of a citizenship status question would most likely deter people from participating in the Census. Lack of participation would result in an undercount and unfair federal funding and elected representation based on that undercount.  

“It is critical that the 202 Decennial Census captures accurate data so our communities can be fairly represented and federal funding can be properly allocated…The long-term effects of an undercount would be devastating for families in my community and throughout New York, and I strongly urge you to reject requests to add a citizenship question that would cause depressed and inaccurate responses,” Simotas said in her letter to Secretary Ross, who has until April 1 to submit final proposed census questions to Congress.

The complete letter follows:

Honorable Wilbur L. Ross, Jr.

Secretary

U.S. Department of Commerce
14021 Constitution Avenue, NW 
Washington, D.C. 20230

Dear Secretary Ross:

I write to urge you to reject any attempt to include a question on citizenship status in the 2020 Decennial Census. As a representative of a diverse community in New York that is home to a large population of immigrants, I am deeply concerned that a citizenship question would deter many of my constituents from participating in the census and prevent them from receiving critically needed resources over the next decade.

In the district I represent, approximately 90% of residents currently live in neighborhoods considered “hard-to-count” by the Census Bureau, and only 68.4% of households returned their questionnaires in the 2010 Decennial Census. With heightened fears of immigration enforcement and anxieties over the confidentiality of census data, it will be even more challenging to collect and complete, accurate information. Adding a question about citizenship will exacerbate these issues and depress response rates even further, leading to detrimental consequences for our most vulnerable populations.

It is critical that the 2020 Decennial Census captures accurate data so our communities can be fairly represented and federal funding can be properly allocated. The inclusion of an immigration status question would undermine the validity of census data and hinder efforts to provide vital services to people in need. The long-term effects of an undercount would be devastating for families in my community and throughout New York, and I strongly urge you to reject requests to add a citizenship question that would cause depressed and inaccurate responses. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Aravella Simotas

New York State Assemblymember

36th District – Queens

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