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Many California Communities Will Be Hard To Count For 2020 Census

The sun sets over downtown Los Angeles skyline with the snow covered mountains behind it, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013.
Associated Press
The sun sets over downtown Los Angeles skyline with the snow covered mountains behind it, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013.

Tuesday is the final day for public comment on census questions

Many California Communities Will Be Hard To Count For 2020 Census
Many California Communities Will Be Hard To Count For 2020 Census GUEST: Christopher Wilson, associate director, Alliance San Diego

Researchers are warning that the 2020 census could miss millions of Californians. The reasons range from lack of internet access to unusual forms of housing. But the major concern is the addition of a question on the upcoming census which asks residents if they are American citizens. Today is the deadline for members of the public to comment on the 2020 census questions including the controversial new citizenship question. Joining me is Christopher Wilson with a Elian's in San Diego which is a social justice nonprofit. Wilson also sits on Gov. Brown's California Complete Count committee which is in charge of developing and implementing plans to ensure all Californians are counted in the 2020 census. Christopher welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. Now a report from Public Policy Institute of California showed millions of Californians could be undercounted in the 2020 census. Is that a concern that affects San Diego as well. It's a very big concern that affects San Diego in the 2010 census San Diego was one of the most undercounted counties in California and we all know the importance of the census in deciding where what representation we have and the federal government level as well as redistricting and local levels in at the state. Now are there certain census tracks here in San Diego County that are particularly vulnerable to being undercounted. Yes we have a very high number of immigrants. We have very high numbers of homeless people we have very high numbers of low income folks who are all at risk. People don't speak English as our first language at risk and we know that we have lots of census tracts that include those vulnerable communities. Can you give us an example. Downtown San Diego any pick any one you know where there are high populations of homeless people or City Heights beginning census tract and City Heights and you have high numbers of vulnerable people. Now the new census question that has many people concerned asks about a person's citizenship. Attorney General Javier Basara has sued the Trump administration over the citizenship question but it does not ask whether someone is in the country illegally. So what's the real concern here. The real concern is that this question will deter people from completing the census from participating. If we are really concerned about undercounts or in the reverse counting everyone we need to make sure that the census itself the questions don't scare people don't induce fear and then you know produce the undercount that we're concerned about isn't the citizenship question already part of the American Community Survey that's done on an annual basis by the Census Bureau. It is but the American Community Survey does not question everyone everyone does not participate in the American Community Survey. So if a citizenship question does make it on the census what will be your advice to households where there might be some members of the family who are not U.S. citizens. That's that's almost like being between a rock and a hard place because we don't want people to do anything that's going to harm their capability of living a prosperous life and at the same time we want to be to have everyone counted because we need to make sure that San Diego does not lose out on representation in Washington D.C. which is very important. We want to make sure San Diego does not lose out our resources and that when we go through the redistricting process it is based on the population that lives in this area at the time. And so we would ask and we want to make sure that people participate but we want to make sure that it's done in the safest and least harmful manner possible and so we're recommending that the secretary of commerce remove the citizenship question. It has been removed before it was determined to be a deterrent to full participation in the past and in the current climate of our country and with the current administration I don't think anyone will feel comfortable saying it won't be a deterrent in 2020. Well Elian's San Diego taking any steps to ensure that everyone is counted. We will be doing a lot of communication around the census. We will be possibly knowing outreach prior to the census to make sure communities know that the Census is coming. We will participate in the county's complete count committee if it's formed or the city of San Diego's complete count committee. If it's warm and you know speaking of complete count committees that is something that locales can do as well municipalities have the ability to form a complete count committee for their city and the state is allocating resources for cities and counties to do so. And what will these complete count committees do. Well the purpose of a complete count committee is not to actually go out and do the counting. It's to make sure that the communities are aware that the Census is coming what the purpose of the census is to ensure that outreach is done in language to make sure that people have resources that they need in order to effectively be counted. To answer questions and to make sure that the government the local governments have a plan for their city to be completely candid because it's very important. So as I said in the beginning this is the deadline today is the deadline for people to submit their comments about their citizenship question and any other question that's going to be on the 2020 census. Where can people go to submit those public comments on the census. People can directly e-mail the secretary of commerce at W L R O S S at D.O.C. Govey that w o s s at D.O.C.. And I believe you'll be able to find that email address on our website PBX dot org. I've been speaking with Christopher Wilson with Alliance San Diego. Christopher thank you. Thank you.

As the 2020 census approaches, California officials are confronting the possibility, or the likelihood, that their population will be undercounted.

Census undercounts occur when people don't fill out and return the forms the Census Bureau sends them. The Census Bureau predicts 17 percent of San Diego County's census tracts will be "very hard to count" due to low response rates.

In Imperial County, 43 percent of the census tracts are considered very hard to count.

Tess Thorman is a researcher with the Public Policy Institute of California, which created a California map that reflects the census predictions.

Thorman said census tracts fall into the "very hard to count" category if at least 29 percent of households there are expected to be unresponsive to the census forms.

Some racial minority groups, children and renters are likely to be undercounted, she said.

"In the 2020 census housing will be a major issue. There are a lot of people with the housing crisis living in overcrowded rental housing. People in mobile homes tend to be undercounted," she said.

Thorman added that undercounts have very real consequences.

"On the federal scale it will impact the number of representatives California will have in the federal government as well as funding over the next 10 years," she said.

RELATED: California Urges Resistance To Census Citizenship Question

Thorman said the Census Bureau will follow up with in-person visits if forms are not returned. Also, local governments and nonprofits run programs to better ensure census counts are correct.

Tuesday is the final day to submit public comment on the 2020 Census questions, including the controversial citizenship question.

Many California Communities Will Be Hard To Count For 2020 Census
As the 2020 census approaches, California officials are confronting the possibility that their population will be undercounted.

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