Though the count is still two years away, Elgin officials and civic leaders are concerned a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. census could dissuade some residents from responding and hurt the tally’s accuracy.
Illinois State Rep. Anna Moeller (D-Elgin) said one of the big concerns is a question the Donald Trump administration plans to have on the form that would ask for the citizenship status of household members.
“This is purely politically motivated, and the Census Bureau itself has said this is not good public policy,” Moeller said during a panel discussion this month at the Gail Borden Public Library.
The census, taken every 10 years, helps determine how federal dollars are allocated at the local level.
“It is critical that every voice is heard, so that the count can truly capture the demographic representation of Elgin. Any misrepresentation could mean fewer federal dollars to support essential programs, including but not limited to housing, mental health and infrastructure,” Elgin Communications Specialist Molly Center said.
Jaime Garcia, executive director of Elgin’s Centro de Informacion, said there is a growing fear among immigrants and other groups about answering the citizenship question.
To that point, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is part of a coalition of 18 states, the District of Columbia, nine cities, four counties, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors that filed a lawsuit to block the citizenship question from being included with the 2020 census.
In a prepared statement, Madigan said, “The Census is critical to ensuring immigrants in Illinois and across the country are represented fairly and accurately.”
The lawsuit contends the federal government’s intent to ask for citizenship would depress census responses in states with large immigrant populations and threaten the fair representation of those states in Congress and the Electoral College, as well as cost those states federal funds.
Illinois lost one congressional seat after the 2010 census, bringing the state’s count to 18. The 2020 census could cost Illinois another seat or possibly two, some experts have speculated.
With funding on the line, Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain said he wants to make sure everyone is counted. Participation in neighborhoods with a high number of Latino residents went from 50 percent in 2000 to 68 percent in 2010, Kaptain said.
“People felt more comfortable answering in 2010, but I’m afraid we might be taking a step backward this time,” Kaptain said.
Other challenges include getting a handle on the number of homeless and senior citizens, Kaptain said. Seniors are another group that might be reluctant to open the door to a census-taker or to answer a phone call.
Seniors might also be less tech-savvy, Kaptain said. The Census Bureau is hopeful most households will fill out the 2020 document online.
Kaptain said he recently attended a discussion with Census Bureau staff and believes cities will need to publicize the census and its importance. Kaptain said that could mean Elgin spending money out of its own budget on the effort.
City staff already is looking into providing city-issued lanyards to census-takers so residents know people coming to their doors are legitimate.
In 2010, the Gail Borden Public Library received a grant from the Grand Victoria Foundation to help coordinate the community census effort. Staff worked with city staff, schools and community organizations to get out the message about the census and has held discussions already about the library’s role in 2020.
“We do not know exactly what the next effort will look like yet, but we hope to contribute to making the count accurate, helping to ensure appropriate federal funding that is necessary for the community,” library public relations and communications chief Denise Raleigh said.
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via Elgin Courier-News
August 21, 2018 at 09:16PM