Donald Trump's Plan to Sabotage 2020 U.S. Census

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Trump. Photo Gage Skidmore: Flickr


Earlier this week, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin accused the Trump administration of attempting to sabotage the 2020 Census, and from all indications, we have reason to be concerned.

The Census Bureau has been without a director since June and remains critically understaffed and underfunded. The Bureau plans to discontinue the practice of hiring non-citizens with legal work permits – who have been crucial in the past for communicating with hard-to-reach non-English-speaking communities.

The administration has rejected requested changes that could improve the accuracy of the 2020 Census, declining to include a combined question format for collecting Hispanic origin and race, or a separate Middle Eastern or North African category on the Census form. The administration’s reported choice for deputy director, Thomas Brunell, is a hyper-partisan gerrymandering advocate with no political experience.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors this week warned in a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: “We are troubled by the administration’s reported intent to appoint a candidate for Census Bureau deputy director whose body of professional work largely centers around achieving partisan advantage in the use of census data.”

Since census data is used to draw Congressional districts, the choice of Brunell seems a deliberate attempt to skew census data to give one party an unfair advantage in the 2022 elections.

The decennial census is among the most crucially-important undertakings, with far-ranging implications for legislative redistricting, civil rights laws and distribution of opportunities and resources. A fair and accurate census is of paramount importance. The National Urban League has been a powerful advocate for accurate African American representation in the census for generations. In 1970, then-executive director Whitney M. Young testified to Congress about the drastic undercount of African Americans, estimated at 15 percent.

As chair of the Census Bureau’s 2010 Census Advisory Committee, I urged the Bureau to expand its paid advertising to areas that have high percentages of hard-to-count residents, who often distrusts of government workers. I also pushed for more census funding specifically targeted at Black communities.
Despite our efforts, the 2010 Census missed an estimated 1.5 million people of color.  Unless the Census Bureau makes immediate, drastic changes, the results of the 2020 Census will be much worse.

As part of our efforts, the National Urban League has enlisted civic engagement expert Jeri Green, who will serve as a Senior Advisor for the 2020 Census. In her former position as Senior Advisor for Civic Engagement with the U.S. Census Bureau, Green educated diverse stakeholders on the benefits of Census participation and engaged Hard-to-Count communities to ascertain their unique challenges to obtaining an accurate count.

Politicizing the census, particularly at the expense of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens, violates the foundational principles of representational democracy. The National Urban League will continue forcefully to advocate for a census that reflects the diversity of our nation.

Marc H. Morial, 
President and CEO

National Urban League


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