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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

SD Leaders Praise SCOTUS Decision To Block Citizenship Question On Census

 July 1, 2019 at 10:36 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego leaders and immigrant rights groups are praising the Supreme Court's decision to keep the citizenship question off the 2020 census for the time being. And the court said the Trump administration's justification for the question was contrived, leaving open the possibility of adding the question in the future. But California Governor Gavin Newson believes the damage may have already been done. Speaker 2: 00:22 This has been delayed, but the Trump administration has not been denied. Uh, the fear and the anxiety that he has caused and induced a and that is still very present in our society today. Speaker 1: 00:35 So how will this impact how the immigrant community responds to the census? Joining me is Christopher Wilson, associate director of alliance San Diego and part of the count me 2020 coalition. Chris, welcome. It's great to be here. Thank you for having me. You know, I would like to play a little bit more of what the governor said in reaction to last week, Supreme Court decision. Here it is Speaker 2: 00:56 regardless of the decision today, the damage of bringing this issue up and being part of our national discourse over the course of the last year has been done just a few days ago, we were warning about ice rates and we encouraged, uh, members of our community to, you know, not answer the door unless there is a warrant. We wanted folks to know their rights the same time. Now we're letting everybody know it's critical that they answer the questionnaire and the survey. So we have work to do. Speaker 1: 01:33 Do you agree with Governor Newsome? Speaker 3: 01:35 I do find myself agreeing with governor some. It's something that we've talked about in our community meetings. Um, and I also sit on the complete count committee for the state of California advising a governor on efforts that California can undertake to get the most complete count. And it's something we've talked about in those meetings as well. What if the intent was never to really put the question on the census? What if the intent was just to scare people enough to create the two to 5% undercount that would help, you know, the administration in his efforts to dilute undercounted or marginalized communities. And so we have to make sure that we as community members, as a nonprofit organizations who are trusted messengers that were out there telling people that we have to be counted in order to preserve our, our representation. And we have to be counted in order to preserve the federal resources that we deserve as taxpayers, as members of the United States. And that we will stand together with everyone to ensure that the laws are upheld that protect people. Speaker 1: 02:38 And what kind of reaction have you heard from the immigrant community? Speaker 3: 02:42 You know, I think the census question created a lot of fear. We've heard people say things like, I'm not filling it out. We've heard people say things like, I'm going to count my brother's children as mine. We've heard people saying things, everyone in my house is not going to be listed. And it's not just the immigrant community. I've heard from African Americans that they don't want the government in their business and so they're not going to fill it out. It's not the first time people have had fear about the census. I think California experienced a large under town in the 1990 census, which they said led to more than $2,000 a day per person under counted being lost in federal resources. You know, so we, we have a lot of work to do to ensure that people understand that they are required to fill out the census number one. And people should know that the census data is protected by law and that because of those laws, no individual data is ever released to any government agency and that that is a protection we can take all the way to the supreme court. Speaker 1: 03:38 Yeah, I mean, so what is being done to make sure every San Diego is counted Speaker 3: 03:42 first I want to apply governor Newsome for his effort to ensure a complete count. He has pledged more than $150 million of California's budget to the effort to ensure everyone in California is counted. And that is a large number. That's the largest amount of money being spent by all the other states combined. Speaker 1: 04:02 And then there's also this extra added layer of partnerships right here in San Diego, correct? Speaker 3: 04:07 Yes. So the company 2020 coalition is a coalition of more than 100 community organizations across San Diego and imperial counties dedicated to getting the word out about the census, doing education on the purpose and in how to fill out the census and ensuring that the heart to cow communities get the information and the awareness they need to participate fully. We will be door knocking, we will be phoning, we will also be sending up kiosks. So this will be the first census conducted online, which is also a concern for people. You know, we hear about data hacks each and every day and so we'll be setting up secure kiosks so if people don't want to use their computers at home or their phones, they can come to a public location, use a kiosk there to complete the census. There'll be an attendant who can help them answer questions and provide any assistance necessary at those kiosks as well. Speaker 1: 04:57 The Public Policy Institute of California estimates as many as 1.6 million people could potentially be under counted in California. Can you talk about which census tracks in San Diego have been historically hard to count and what makes them hard to count in the first place? Speaker 3: 05:13 Almost every city within the county has at least one census track that is defined as a hard to count census track in San Diego. I think the number is 7.23% of the population is defined as hard to count. I don't think we can just focus on those single census tracks that might fall, that might be the most hard to count. We need to focus on getting the word out to everyone. Um, and that's going to require a huge community effort. And that's why we have more than a hundred community organizations in account me 2020 coalition. Speaker 1: 05:44 Uh, but still, how do you manage to convince immigrants who might be nervous and have been living with fear of deportation to give up their personal information? Speaker 3: 05:53 Well, that, that's a hard thing to do. Being a person who works with the immigrant community everyday be in an organization who has stood on the front line to protect our immigrant community members. I don't know that there's any one thing we can say to convince them, but what we have been saying is not filling out the census continues to make people invisible. And we know the dangers that happen when people can't be, can't fully realize the life that they came here to seek. Also a message around safety and numbers. If we all participate, if the numbers are so great coming from San Diego County, that makes it hard to filter through the data to get down to those vulnerable people who might find themselves in harm's way by filling out the census and we're kind of an impact would and under count have in San Diego. I don't think anyone has actually studied the financial impact, but I, I know that, um, through the work I do on a complete count committee, we've looked at in Los Angeles, and it's estimated that Los Angeles lost billions of dollars from the 2010 centers from the undercounted they experienced, and we estimate that a serious undercounted San Diego could cost us a congressional seat, which would be devastating to our congressional delegation. Speaker 3: 07:08 California on the whole could lose two congressional seats with an undercount. It would be a financial impact, but also be a representation impact, which could have far reaching impacts outside of finances. One less congressional representative might be the vote necessary to maintain those programs. I have been speaking with Christopher Wilson, associate director of alliance San Diego, and part of the county me 2020 coalition. Christopher, thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

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San Diego elected officials and immigration-rights activists Thursday hailed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling blocking a citizenship question from the 2020 Census.
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