Local governments are unworried about the possible census query on citizenship

PAMPLIN MEDIA  - The census will be taken in 2020Local governments aren't too concerned yet about the controversial move to add a question about citizenship on the 2020 U.S. Census, noting that it likely won't affect area funding.

Critics of the move to add the citizenship question, including 18 state attorneys general, say it will make some people reluctant to participate in the one-per-decade count. Some communities will be undercounted and will get less than their share of federal government funding and be shorted in political representation, critics contend.

"At this point, it's too early to know the impact," said Elizabeth Coffey, communications manager for Gresham.

"It wouldn't affect our status as an entitlement city, so in other words, funds that we get like CDGB (Community Development Block Grant) would not be affected. Generally speaking, the more accurate the data, the more valuable it is — so if this question had an adverse impact on the accuracy, then the census data wouldn't be as valuable," she said.

Ray Young, Troutdale city manager, said, "I don't see that it will impact anything we are doing in Troutdale."

James Buchal, chairman of the Multnomah County Republicans, said he thinks adding the citizenship question is a good move.

"I'm glad we are returning to some common sense," Buchal said. He thinks any effect would be "rather small" and that there is "not any evidence" that the question would lead to an undercount.

Rep. Carla Piluso, a Democrat who represents Gresham in the Oregon Legislature, said "the primary purpose of the census is to get an accurate accounting of everyone in the United States, regardless of immigration status. There's a real risk that adding the citizenship question will deter people from responding."

The U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the Census Bureau, announced on March 26 that it would reinstate a question about citizenship status on the 2020 census "to help enforce the Voting Rights Act." That question hadn't been asked in decades.

Oregon Attorney Ellen Rosenblum announced Tuesday, April 3, that Oregon had joined 18 states that filed a lawsuit to block the move.

Piluso supports Rosenblum's move. "I support Attorney General Rosenblum's action so that everyone is counted and represented," she said.

"The census is part of the bedrock of our democracy," said Rosenblum. "Adding a citizenship question to the census form has a deliberate and intended chilling effect on participation. As state attorneys general we are committed to making sure every voice is heard, and we believe that every person in America counts. Period."

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

It is estimated that a 1 percent undercount on the 2010 Census would have resulted in $23 million less in federal funding for Medicaid for Oregon, Rosenblum's announcement said.

The complaint outlines that Oregon received nearly $431 million in Highway Trust Fund Grants, $57 million in Urbanized Area Formula Grants and $39 million in Child Care Development Grants in fiscal year 2015.

An undercount would "disproportionately harm states with large immigrant communities. Non-citizens are counted in the census for the purposes of federal funds, apportioning of congressional seats and Electoral College votes, and the drawing of state and local districts," Rosenblum's announcement said.

Other states in the lawsuit include Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

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