Citizenship and the 2020 Census

Gearing up for Census 2020

Timothy Walden | March 28, 2018


Our democracy depends on trust and participation, and an accurate 2020 Census is essential for American communities to have the resources and representation for all residents to thrive and belong. This week’s decision by the Administration to add a citizenship question to the Census undermines core democratic principles and our future prosperity, creating a chilling effect on the participation of Americans, especially those born outside the country.  Welcoming communities recognize that their economic future, the voice and well-being of their residents – especially young children-  and the vibrancy of our democracy are at stake, and will not only be pushing back, but working to ensure all people will be counted.  

As lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the decision move forward, localities can and should act now to ensure a fair and accurate count, by engaging stakeholders and communicating the importance of a complete count to local residents, particularly those – like immigrants – at risk of an undercount.

Many welcoming communities are already preparing for the Census, with the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) underway. Municipal offices and community leaders who work with immigrant communities have a significant role to play. The LUCA process is the only opportunity offered to state and local governments to review and comment on the U.S. Census Bureau’s residential address list for their jurisdiction prior to the 2020 Census - if a resident’s address isn’t on the Census master list, they won’t have the opportunity to be counted.

Historically, immigrants have been underrepresented in the Census count, in large part due to unconventional or low visibility housing arrangements (such as trailers or garages) that are missed by only relying on information from the U.S. Postal Service. In preparation for LUCA, the City of San Jose, a welcoming city, recently conducted a pilot program and determined that community-based address canvassing is a solution for identifying low visibility housing and receiving a more accurate count of the immigrant community. As a result of the pilot program, an easy-to-use tool that can be used on mobile devices by volunteers to update addresses was developed as well as a model for efficient address canvassing - both that can be adopted by municipalities across the country.

LUCA is happening now and we stand ready to assist during this first critical step of the Census. We’ll be exploring the Census in more depth during our upcoming conference, Welcoming Interactive.  In the meantime, to learn more and be connected with resources contact contact Melissa Bertolo, [email protected]

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