Tiny Action: All Americans Count

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Amid all the urgent work to be done including and beyond the SCOTUS nomination, this administration continues to dismantle critical government projects, often quietly without much notice. This includes the planning for the 2020 Census.

Official estimates within our own government of Americans abroad range from 6 to 9 million people. Why the discrepancy? They say they simply haven’t been able to accurately estimate the numbers of Americans overseas. Once again, it’s very unlikely we will be counted in the 2020 census.

Of course this is not the only threat to accurate data collection. The 2020 census will not collect any information on LGBT populations other than whether they identify as being in a “same-sex relationship.” Furthermore, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has directed the Census Bureau to add a question about citizenship status — a step that will only worsen the ongoing treatment of non-white Americans as lesser citizens.

This week’s Tiny Action: Submit your comment to the Department of Commerce — and tell Congress, too — that we all deserve to be counted in the 2020 Census.

1. Email comments to PRACOMMENTS@DOC.GOV before August 7.

To submit your opinion to the Department of Commerce regarding the citizenship question on the census, provide comments both in the body of the email and as an attachment PDF, Word, Excel, WordPerfect formats only). Please note that your comment will not be confidential. All comments received are part of the public record.

SAMPLE TEXT, though you are encouraged to use your own words:

I am an American citizen who votes in [CITY, STATE], but I currently live in [CITY, COUNTRY]. I’m writing to express my opposition to the question of citizenship on the US 2020 census.

As an American overseas, I am disappointed that a census including American citizens overseas is not feasible at this time, even as an estimate. It is, however, not only feasible but a successful practice to count EVERYONE living in the United States. This is a clear Constitutional mandate and a moral imperative for a functioning democracy.

As a voter and citizen, therefore, I am strongly opposed to the inclusion of a question of citizenship in the census.

Secretary Ross told the House Ways and Means Committee that the Justice Department requested the citizenship question to enforce the Voting Rights Act. But documents show that the request were actually the result of anti-immigrant lobbying by Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State, and Steve Bannon.  A federal judge later found that Ross’s statements were untrue, and that there is strong evidence that this question is being implemented in bad faith to undermine a constitutional mandate and fair political representation.

Americans deserve an accurate count, because it is necessary for fair representation in the political process, both for congressional apportionment and redistricting purposes. As you know, an accurate count is also necessary for responsible and efficient allocation of federal resources, which are vital to all communities in America.

A citizenship question would reduce the likelihood of participation by individuals who are fearful of or feel threatened by the federal government. It is almost certain to depress response to the census from noncitizens and even immigrants who lawfully reside in the country.

Ensuring that all questions are thoroughly researched and tested should be an absolute requirement for the decennial census, and the addition of last-minute untested questions would negatively impact the outcome and result in increased costs to the Bureau.

I will also be contacting my members of Congress to ask that they do everything they can to stop this question from being included, if it is unable to be stopped at the Bureau or Department level.

Thank you.

2. Tell your Senators and Representatives to push for legislation to ensure a fair census.

My name is [NAME] and I vote in [DISTRICT, STATE] but I currently live in [CITY, COUNTRY].

I wanted you to know that I have recently submitted comment to the Department of Commerce regarding the question of citizenship on the 2020 census.

I am strongly opposed to this question, and I ask the [Senator/Congress(wo)man] to support legislation to prevent it from being included, and to also support further legislation that will ensure an accurate, fair count of all American communities.

Adding a question at this late stage without adequate research and testing could affect the rate and accuracy of responses to the census, compromising one of the most valuable data resources the government produces and adding unknown totals to the cost of the count. The information obtained from the census is simply too important to risk an untested question.

There are currently multiple bills in House and Senate committees that, if moved forward, could address a range of issues around the census. This includes sufficient budget allocation, preventing last-minute changes of census questions, and establishing a Task Force for the 2020 Census to report on the impact of new and existing questions and related civil rights issues. While these bills are currently stuck in committee, I ask that the [Senator/Congress(wo)man] pressure their peers to move this forward and that s/he supports legislation that would ensure a fair census.

Finally, if legislation does move forward relating to the 2020 Census, I strongly urge for the inclusion of legislative language mandating the enumeration of all federally-unaffiliated U.S. citizens living abroad. Currently the millions of us living overseas remain uncounted and disenfranchised. While previous trials determined this was cost prohibitive I simply cannot accept that the 6 to 9 million Americans abroad continue to be simply ignored. Our votes matter, and our count matters.

Thank you for your time.

WHY THE CENSUS MATTERS

The census is the basis for equal political representation under the Constitution, including how many representatives your state will send to Congress. Even Republicans in Utah agree that ignoring the millions of Americans abroad impacts our representation in Washington.

Including the question of citizenship will exacerbate fears among minority groups that their information could be released to other departments, causing systemic undercounting and underfunding of states, cities and towns with substantial immigrant and minority populations. This is no small issue. Around 300 government assistance programs (like Medicaid and CHIP) rely on the census to guide distribution of over $800 billion in funds to states and local areas.

The Department of Commerce is accepting public comments on the inclusion of the citizenship question on the census until August 7th. We need as many people as possible to send their comments to the Department of Commerce, plus reach out to their Congressional representatives — because legislation can stop this, if the Department of Commerce will not.

MORE INFO

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