As California Loses Congressional Seat, Power of Immigrant Neighborhoods Gets Further Diluted
Last year’s census was conducted in the face of a global pandemic and uncertainty surrounding a possible citizenship question.
Census organizers in City Heights had to put aside years of planning and instead start from scratch, finding ways to reach community members who might have been reticent to get counted, either because of the pandemic, or anti-immigrant rhetoric stemming from the White House.
After the initial census results were released on Monday, these organizers were left with mixed feelings — knowing that given the circumstances, it could have gone worse for California. But still believing that the state has been undercounted.
“It’s definitely not accurate but it’s as accurate as it’s going to get with the manpower and the resources and the outreach that we were able to do,” said Brenda Diaz, civic engagement coordinator at MID-CITY CAN, which spearheaded efforts in City Heights.
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With California’s population still growing, the loss of a congressional seat means further diluting political power — something that will impact immigrant-majority neighborhoods like City Heights, which relies on federal support for schools, hospitals, and other services.
“There’s not enough money coming into our communities,” Diaz said. “There’s not enough people advocating for City Heights, and that just means we have a lot of work ahead.”
New York state also lost a congressional seat this cycle, by an astoundingly slim margin of 89 people. Diaz says this underscores how planning for the next census needs to be an ongoing process.
“It can’t begin a year before or even two years before, it needs to start three to five years out,” she said. “We need to make sure that people that are going to be doing the work understand what’s at stake and that sooner rather than later we begin with the messaging to make it as accurate as possible and as inclusive as possible.”
Census block data, showing how San Diego fared at the neighborhood level, is set to be released this September.