Broad-Based, Statewide Coalition New York Counts 2020 Launches to Ensure a Fair and Accurate Census

March 28th, 2018

New citizenship question on U.S. Census is “toxic”

NEW YORK, NY – Today, the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), elected officials, broad-based community groups, labor leaders, and census experts launched a statewide campaign, New York Counts 2020, to ensure a fair and accurate Census that will protect all New Yorkers.

The move comes just a day after the Commerce Department announced that a citizenship question will be added to the 2020 Census.

“A citizenship question on the U.S. Census is toxic to New York’s four million immigrants, and all New Yorkers, who stand to lose millions of dollars in federal aide and political power in Congress. New York Counts 2020 will empower local municipalities to reach historically hard to count populations and get the resources we need and deserve. This is our New York and we’re not going to lose a dime, or our voices, to Washington D.C.” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

"President Trump continues to deploy every resource at his disposal to attack and intimidate immigrant families, and this decision to undermine the 2020 Census is no different,” said Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “This once-per-decade process is a sacred undertaking that allows us to fully understand the composition of our nation and our city – and immigrant families are an integral part of this effort. At a time when we have seen anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies flow from the White House, a question on citizenship status would instill fear and distrust among immigrants. This move will not only silence their voices, but it could also result in a severe undercount in places like New York City, drastically impacting our share of federal funding and representation in Congress. I will continue to fight against this and other anti-immigrant attacks from the Trump administration,” said United States Representative Joe Crowley, Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

“The Trump Administration is doing everything it can to undermine the 2020 Census and Hispanics’ participation in it. The inclusion of a citizenship question is unnecessary, unsupported, and a clear attack on immigrant and other minority communities that already live in fear under the Trump Administration. As the Ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee with oversight over the Census Bureau, I plan to introduce an amendment to prevent funds from being used to include such a question on the 2020 Census form. The Census needs to remain a nonpartisan instrument to gain an accurate count and understanding of American society – it should not be an politicized,” said United States Representative José Serrano, Co-Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“The decision to add this question without any testing at this late stage is deeply troubling and reckless,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens). “Asking respondents if they are citizens will likely decrease response rates in immigrant communities, and as a result produce an inaccurate and incomplete count that will impact the distribution of federal resources, and the number of Congressional districts that each state receives. Many immigrants who are fearful of deportation under the current Administration will simply choose to not participate in the census out of fear that the information they provide will be used against them. Last week, I expressed my concerns to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross when he testified before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. But unfortunately, the secretary decided to add this misguided question. I am deeply disappointed with Secretary Ross, and I will now look to stop this question from being included on the census,” said United States Representative Grace Meng, Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee.

“I am deeply concerned following the decision by the Trump Administration and U.S. Census Bureau to add a new citizenship question to the 2020 Census,” said U.S. Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “By doing so, at the request of the Department of Justice and without proper review, this undermines the accuracy and reliability of the 2020 Census and will drive people underground. I call on the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to formally object to the inclusion of this outdated and hazardous question. If we are to ensure a fair and fully representative government, it is critical that the Census questions are appropriate and meaningful to allow all persons to be counted,” said United States Representative Adriano Espaillat.

“A fair and accurate count of all people in America is one of the federal government's most solemn constitutional obligations. The Trump Administration's reckless decision to suddenly abandon nearly 70 years of practice by demanding to know the citizenship status of each resident counted cuts to the heart of this sacred obligation – and will create an environment of fear and distrust in immigrant communities that would make impossible both an accurate Census and the fair distribution of federal tax dollars,” said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “This move directly targets states like New York that have large, thriving immigrant populations – threatening billions of dollars in federal funding for New York as well as fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College. My office will lead a multi-state lawsuit to protect New Yorkers, preserve a fair and accurate Census, and hold the Trump Administration accountable for violating both the 14th Amendment and the Enumeration Clause of the United States Constitution.”

"To have an accurately counted census, people must be able to trust that the information they fill out is used for the appropriate purpose. By asking a citizenship question the Census Bureau is setting themselves up for an under counted census that will not be accurate. We need to encourage all people to take part in the census, not add politically motivated questions that discourage participation," said State Senator Jeffrey Klein, Senate Coalition Leader and Independent Democratic Conference Leader.

“Including a citizenship status question in the Census 2020 is not only irrational and unjust, but also un-American. This is just one more attack against our hard-working immigrant communities. When is this going to stop? Enough is enough. Using the Census 2020 as a political tool is completely reckless. It is my hope that the citizenship issue is taken out of the questionnaire so we get a real, accurate count of our population. I support New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s multi-state lawsuit to block this decision and look forward to the citizenship question being dropped from the Census 2020,” said State Senator Jose Peralta.

“We have witnessed what terrible financial and political consequences an undercount can have on our communities. The huge undercount of the 2010 Census cost New York over $1.5 billion annually in lost federal aid and the loss of two Congressional seats. We are about to see a greater negative impact as fear and uncertainty of sharing citizenship status will lead to millions not participating in the Census. This decision by the Census must be stopped by Congress and the Courts, and with New York Counts 2020 we will lead the fight back,” said State Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, Chair of the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force.

"The 2020 Census must accurately account for every person in the United States, regardless of citizenship status. The Department of Justice's request to add a new citizenship question to the Census is another attack against States like New York with large immigrant populations," said Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages, Chair of the Task Force on New Americans. “By adding a citizenship question, participation in the upcoming census by immigrants and U.S- born people who live with them will significantly drop. With New York Counts 2020, the Legislature will help ensure that these terrible effects are ameliorated,” said State Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages, Chair of the Task Force on New Americans.

“The census is the deciding factor in a number of important decisions, from the number of congressional seats to the funding that communities receive. Questions relating to immigrant status, in conjunction with the president’s increasingly anti-immigrant rhetoric, will only make it harder to reach an accurate count in communities with large immigrant populations. The US Census Bureau should reject the inclusion of any questions pertaining to immigration status and ensure that a full and accurate count is taken. We will work with New York Counts 2020 to make sure New York is fully counted,” said State Assemblyman Ron Kim.

“The federal administration has taken yet another step to dehumanize and discount millions of people living in this country,” said New York City Public Advocate Letitia James. “Requiring questions about citizenship in the 2020 Census will result in a substantial underreporting of the number of individuals in America, impacting everything from critical funding measures to accurate political representation. New York City must and will step up to protect and support our communities and I thank the New York Immigration Coalition for helping to lead the way.”

"The census is not just a survey of citizens – it is a count of all residents. The Trump Administration's decision to ask a citizenship question on the census is designed to ensure an inaccurate count, and it's intended to keep people in the shadows. This is a direct attack on our immigrant communities and the 215 federal programs that depend on accurate census data. It's disgraceful," said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. "All New Yorkers must come together to fight this decision, protect our neighbors, and stand up for a country where everybody counts."

“This is an attack on the integrity of the U.S. Census, which is at the heart of our representative democracy. Asking people about their citizenship on the census raises serious constitutional concerns, jeopardizes billions for great American cities like New York, and serves no purpose other than trying to intimidate immigrant communities. This is a shameful move by the Trump administration and one that seems targeted to punish the parts of this country where his support is least,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“The inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census is a stride backwards, weakening our states and cities while putting the future of our children and their educational resources in peril,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives J. Phillip Thompson. “New York City will join the multi-state lawsuit led by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to ensure a fair enumeration of our people. Coupled with today’s announcement that the New York Immigration Coalition and a broad group of leaders are forming the New York Counts 2020 Census, we are reminding the federal government that we do not turn our backs on New Yorkers. No matter what your legal status, your voice will be heard,” said NYC Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives J. Phillip Thompson.

“The Department of Commerce’s decision to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census taints a process that should be merely statistical in nature. This xenophobic and unnecessary measure will cause widespread fear and thousands of New York’s immigrant and mixed status families may decline to participate. Given the direct link between the Census count and the allocation of federal resources for hospitals, schools and public services, it is critical that families feel comfortable participating and a citizenship question creates unnecessary barriers to doing so. As a City committed to protecting the well-being of all of our residents, we will continue to push back against the inclusion of this question,” said City Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

In February, the New York Immigration Coalition – with over one hundred immigrant, labor, religious, health, education, housing, and civic groups throughout New York State signed-on – sent a letter to the Department of Commerce and the Office of Management and Budget protesting the potential inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 census questionnaire.

“A citizenship question is not only unnecessary for Voting Rights Act compliance but threatens the viability of minority districts in the next redistricting. A census that counts everyone equally helps guarantee proper minority representation,” said Jeffrey M. Wice, Fellow, Rockefeller Institute of Government.

“The census is important and the business community shares the concern that a citizenship question will jeopardize a complete and accurate count,” said Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO, Partnership for New York City.

“Adding a widely criticized question about citizenship status in the 2020 U.S. Census is yet another example of Trump administration reforms, steeped in white supremacist values, meant to intimidate immigrants and working class people of color. It’s also clearly meant to disenfranchise and deprive these communities of the resources they rely on. We denounce this reckless act that will damage the accuracy of Census data and put communities across the nation in jeopardy. This dangerous question must not be allowed in the 2020 Census process,” said Héctor Figueroa, President of 32BJ SEIU.

“The citizenship question undermines an accurate census for all America. It stokes fear, increases the likelihood of a false count, and unfairly harms cities and states like New York where immigrants are a deep and important part of the fabric,” said Steven Rubenstein, Chairman of the Association for a Better New York. “We urge Secretary Ross to reconsider this damaging decision that will further discourage these already hard to count populations from participating.”

“This administration is once again exalting certain “persons” in the United States over others in a capricious, harmful and alarming way to demean and devalue the contributions of all residents,” said Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “The 14th Amendment protects all “persons” not just citizens of our country. It has long been settled and accepted that all people – regardless of their citizenship, place of birth, religion or any other standard – are counted and are encouraged to participate in the census. The inclusion of the U.S. Citizenship question contradicts our values as a country of immigrants.”

“The Asian American Federation strongly objects to the last minute addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Census. This unprecedented action will jeopardize the accuracy of the 2020 Census, unduly increase the costs, and suppress the count of Asian New Yorkers, all for data that is already collected by the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation.

“Our communities want and must have a full count and our ability to get our fair share of the nearly 700 billion dollars spent annually, depends on it. Despite this setback, CLSJ’s NYC BLAC for Census 2020 will continue pushing to ensure that all of our communities are counted. We join with the New York Immigration Coalition in opposing the insertion of the immigration question into Census 2020,” said Esmeralda Simmons, Esq., Executive Director at Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, CUNY.

“The Arab American Association of New York and the Arab immigrant community are outraged to learn of Secretary Ross’ decision to allow a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Allowing the addition of a citizenship question to the census is part of this administration’s xenophobic and discriminatory policies aimed at our immigrant communities. It is unconstitutional and will discourage many immigrant families from responding to the census - resulting in less political representation and loss of integral funding to our vulnerable communities. Historically, the census has failed to accurately represent our communities because of the lack of proper racial categories to identify communities of color. Because of this ill-advised decision, this decennial survey will skew and erase the demographic data of our communities. We call on Congress to correct this error in judgement and ensure a fair and accurate count for the 2020 census,” said Rama Issa-Ibrahim, Executive Director at Arab American Association of New York.

"AALDEF will fight this politically motivated effort to suppress the accurate reporting of immigrant communities. The harm to immigrant communities is real, and we will use all legal options at our disposal," said Margaret Fung, Executive Director at Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“Black New Yorkers make up about a quarter of the City’s population and a significant portion of them are immigrants of African descent. The US Constitution calls for a count of all people - not just citizens. This unnecessary and harmful move by the federal administration adds another obstacle to getting a complete count of Black New Yorkers of all ethnicities for Census 2020 - on top of the existing barriers that activists, attorneys, CBOs, faith based groups, community organizers and others were already combatting,” said Lurie Daniel Favors, Esq., General Counsel at the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, CUNY.

"The inclusion of a citizenship status question in the 2020 Census will have a chilling effect for immigrant communities and communities of color,” said Wayne Ho, President & CEO of the Chinese-Amer­ican Planning Counci­l. "This will have negative, long-term effects on not only the communities we serve but also all New Yorkers. We urge the New York Congressional Delegation to pass legislation to remove the citizenship status question and ensure our state has proper electoral representation and federal resources.”

“In New York City, Chinatown/Lower East Side has one of the highest diversity ratios between lower-income and higher-income residents. Most of the immigrant residents are low-income. An accurate count of these residents is very much needed but census questions that ask "are you a citizen?" will deter many of our residents from answering the census and will result in insufficient resources for our community,” said Mae Lee, Executive Director at the Chinese Progressive Association.

“The discriminatory intent of including a citizenship question on the census is obvious and has no place in sound governmental processes. The census is a tool to learn about the needs and the capacity of our city, state, and country so that institutions can respond accordingly. An inaccurate census count will negatively impact New Yorkers politically, as well as financially - in terms of federal funding for key programs such as CHIP, Medicare and Head Start, for the next ten years,” said Betsy Gotbaum, Executive Director at Citizens Union.

"The MinKwon Center for Community Action is opposed to Secretary Ross's terrible and misguided decision to include an untested citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Many immigrants are already afraid of sharing their personal information and are fearful of opening their doors to federal agents; asking for citizenship status on the 2020 Census, in the current anti-immigrant climate, and expecting a more complete and accurate count is naïve and out of touch. The citizenship question will further exacerbate the chronic undercounting New York has experienced for decades, hurting all New Yorkers with an unfair reduction in funding and the strength of our political voice," said James Hong, Co-Director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action.

“This is an ill-advised, unnecessarily intrusive census question that will hurt the various ethnic communities, especially the Asian American Pacific Islander community. More than ever, OCA-NY will need to work with our coalition partners, community-based organizations, businesses, and civic leaders to overturn this disastrous decision,” said Chi Loek, President at OCA-NY.

“United Neighborhood Houses, the association of NYC’s 39 settlement houses and neighborhood centers reaching over 750,000 New Yorkers every year, strongly opposes the Trump Administration’s decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. It is clear that the sole goal of this unethical decision is to intimidate immigrant communities from participating in our national Census—and the result of an undercount of NYC’s residents will hurt all New Yorkers. From potentially costing the State and City billions in federal dollars, many of which originated as income taxes paid by New Yorkers’ of all citizenship statuses, to a possible loss in the State’s Congressional representation, deliberately suppressing Census participation will have a detrimental impact on our country’s political and economic well-being. We call on Congress to remove the citizenship question from the Census and for the Administration to represent the interests of all Americans by focusing their energy on planning an efficient, well-resourced and representative count of our country’s vibrant and diverse communities,” said Susan Stamler, Executive Director at United Neighborhood Houses.


A non-partisan, reliable, and responsive 2020 Census is necessary to ensure the proper distribution of over $600 billion in federal funding to communities across the United States for schools, hospitals, housing, and transportation. The addition of a citizenship question to the decennial Census, as requested by the Department of Justice in December 2017, would stoke unnecessary fear in immigrant communities and result in a significant undercount, particularly by already under-counted racial and ethnic minority groups. With immigrant communities constituting nearly 1 out of every 4 New Yorkers, an undercount in the 2020 Census will have catastrophic consequences – costing all New Yorkers political power and billions of dollars in federal funding for key services.

Including a question on citizenship would bypass the extensive vetting process to ensure a high and accurate response rate. It would further fuel distrust and concerns of the Census Bureau's obligation to keep the data confidential amid heightened anti-immigrant furor in the current, politically charged climate. This is especially true given the Bureau’s checkered history in sharing confidential information with immigration enforcement, including sharing data to aid the government in the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the post 9-11 targeting of Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians.

The New York Counts 2020 coalition includes:
New York Immigration Coalition
Rockefeller Institute of Government
Arab American Association of New York
Asian American Federation
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Association for a Better New York
Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services
Center for Law and Social Justice, Medgar Evers College
Charles B. Wang Community Health Center
Chinese-American Planning Council
Chinese Progressive Association
Citizens Union
Emerald Isle Immigration Center
Japanese American Social Services, Inc.
Jewish Community Relations Council
LatinoJustice PRLDEF
MinKwon Center for Community Action
New York State Council on Children and Families
Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated (Harlem, NY Chapter)
Queens College CUNY and Social Explorer
Sunnyside Community Services
United Neighborhood Houses
Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County
Wayne Action for Racial Justice
Workers Center of Central New York
(List in formation)