By David Brand
The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Trump Administration from adding a census question to the 2020 U.S. Census, just days before the federal government begins printing roughly 1 billion census forms. The citizenship question would likely discourage immigrants, particularly noncitizens, from completing the census for fear of exposing their residency status to the federal government.
The issue is particularly important in Queens, which is home to more than 1 million immigrants — nearly half the borough’s population. A spokesperson for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said the Queens Complete Census Committee, which conducts outreach and education in the community, will continue its work.
“[T]oday’s Supreme Court decision does not impact the important work of the Queens Complete Count Committee,” said a Borough Hall spokesperson.
The Supreme Court kicked the issue of the census question back to lower courts to address, prompting President Donald Trump to tweet that he has “asked the lawyers if they can delay the Census, no matter how long" until the "United States Supreme Court is given additional information from which it can make a final and decisive decision."
Katz has been a vocal opponent of the citizenship questions and has urged Queens residents not to answer it if it does make it onto the final census form.
“Queens maintains the citizenship question is discriminatory, especially as it was designed to weaponize the Census in order to dilute resources, representation and minority voting power,” she said in a statement. “While the fight to ensure a fair count is far from over, the Supreme Court’s decision today to temporarily block this question is incredibly encouraging.”
Census results affect federal funding and Congressional representation, and, Katz added, “an undercount is something Queens simply cannot afford.”
Earlier this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Queens and urged immigrants to complete the census to ensure an accurate count.
New York City is home to 3.1 million immigrants, according to the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, and Mayor Bill de Blasio hailed the court’s decision as “a key victory.” But, he said, the fight to block the citizenship question is not over.
“Cities across the country have stood together and made clear: if you live in the United States, regardless of immigration status, you are seen, you are heard and you must be counted,” De Blasio said in a statement. “We must continue to resoundingly reject the politics of division and hate and fight for the fair representation this nation was built on.”
Betsy Gotbaum, a former New York City public advocate and the executive director of good government group Citizens Union, called the motivation behind the citizenship question “partisan and racist.”
“The question was intended to send a clear message to areas, like New York, with large immigrant populations — drop dead,” Gotbaum said.