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Don't Undercount Illegal Immigrants in 2020 Census, Caution House Dems

People cheer before they march Feb. 16, 2017, in Detroit for "A Day Without Immigrants." (Todd McInturf /Detroit News via AP)

WASHINGTON – A group of House Democrats are supporting a bill to increase funding for the 2020 Census by more than $400 million to ensure that everyone is counted.

“Our bill would provide a total of $1.9 billion for the Census Bureau in the fiscal year 2018. This is $441 million above the Trump administration’s request and more than twice the increase that the Commerce Department has requested,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y) said Wednesday during a press conference on Capitol Hill about the proposed 2020 American Census Investment Act.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said the census bill is “critical” to America’s democracy.

“How can we have a democracy if we don’t know who lives where and how many live in this community and how many people moved? All of these things are essential,” he said. “Without a quality census, the redistribution of seats in the U.S. House will not be accurate and leave people without a real seat at the table.”

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) said the additional funding for the 2020 census would allow census workers to count the members of previously “undercounted” communities such as the LBGT community and undocumented immigrants.

“To be clear, when the census is compromised, it is minorities and immigrant communities that face the harshest consequences. Communities of color have been undercounted, especially the undocumented, at disproportionately high levels. I’ve seen this myself in Arizona being involved in the last census,” Gallego said.

“It was very difficult, especially considering the atmosphere that has been set in Arizona, to get people to answer their doors, to answer phone calls and to answer mail, and I can only imagine how much more difficult it will be preparing the Trump administration to do this type of work,” he added.

Maloney mentioned that it’s safe for undocumented immigrants to open the door for census workers.

“If you don’t get counted, then the numbers do not reflect what the funding should be for the [public] services that are needed,” she said. “We have a huge challenge now because of the focus on deporting illegals. Now we want to count everybody because everybody in our country needs housing, needs food, needs resources; we have to know where they are, so we have to encourage people to be counted. We don’t want people to not be counted.”

Gallego argued that the Trump administration’s census budget request is too low and that the U.S. cannot have “free and fair elections” without a fully funded 2020 census.

“The Trump administration’s attempts to sabotage the census are just another attack on communities of color,” he said.

Maloney explained that the bill would require the Trump administration to spend money on marketing and promotion as a way to increase participation in the census among undercounted communities.

“We cannot conduct a census by starving it and denying it the resources it needs,” she said.

Sister Simone Campbell of the NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice connected the census to Jesus and Moses.

“The very beginning of the story of Jesus starts with his parents journeying to be counted, so we know the census is part of the essential element of our faith. We also know in the Hebrew Scriptures that Moses counted the Israelites,” she said at the press conference. “Many of our churches use the census to allocate future resources and defining parish lines where churches are needed.”

Maloney agreed. “I think the sister was very inspiring when she talked about how Jesus is being counted and how Moses counted the Israelites and it’s fundamental,” the congresswoman said.

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, applauded the legislation.

“It may be 2017, but the 2020 Census has already begun, and it’s clear more resources are needed to ensure a successful count – one that counts all communities equally well. If the census isn’t fair and accurate, the nation’s most vulnerable communities will be robbed of representation and needed resources for years to come,” she said in a statement on Thursday. “An accurate and fair census, and the collection of useful, objective data about our nation’s people, housing, economy, and communities generally, is among the most important civil rights issues of our day.”