The 2020 Census is approaching, with more than $675 billion in federal fund distribution at stake. How much money goes where is dependent on an accurate headcount of all residents, the Census, which has government officials all over the country encouraging residents to participate.
Monterey County had a low resident count in the 2010 Census, with some census tracts like East Salinas falling to approximately 70 percent of the population counted, according to an analysis by Building Healthy Communities, an organization that works to increase the civic engagement and health of East Salinas residents.
Leading up to the 2020, President Donald Trump proposed adding a question about citizenship status to the census. This worried groups like BHC and the NAACP, which said the question discriminated against communities of color or communities with a high immigration population, and would dissuade them from participating.
According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 19 percent of Monterey County’s population are non-citizens, which is the highest proportion in the state. (An estimated 13 percent of the county's population are undocumented immigrants.)
On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to block the Trump administration’s plan to add a question regarding citizenship.
Locally, the decision has been hailed by elected officials and activists.
Jesus Valenzuela, spokesperson for BHC East Salinas, explains that if significant portions of the population aren’t included, program funding will decrease in the areas where they are arguably most needed.
U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, issued a statement that reads, “I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to halt the inclusion of an unnecessary citizenship question in the 2020 Census. The Administration’s rationale for adding the question is inadequate and based on politics over sound policy.”
Since the question has been blocked, however, President Trump has tweeted a threat to put off the Census, writing: “I have asked the lawyers if they can delay the Census, no matter how long, until the United States Supreme Court is given additional information from which it can make a final and decisive decision on this very critical matter.” (The timing is urgent because of the lead time required to prepare and print documents.)
Despite Trump’s tweet, Valenzuela remains optimistic.
“Luckily we have time on our side,” he says. “Questions for the 2020 Census need to be finished within the next few weeks and we are hopeful that the block stays as is. That doesn’t mean it will stop Trump from making more statements, but it is our constitutional right to be counted and we will be.”