February 06, 2019

Udall Introduces Legislation to Protect 2020 Census and Ensure All New Mexicans Are Counted

Bill would block the addition of Trump administration’s proposed citizenship question to the census

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tom Udall introduced the Census Improving Data and Enhanced Accuracy (Census IDEA) Act, S. 358, legislation that would protect the accuracy of the 2020 census and ensure any proposed changes to the count are properly studied, researched, and tested.

Last year, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross proposed the addition of an untested citizenship question to the 2020 census that would likely influence the accuracy of the survey. Without proper studies and testing, last-minute changes or additions, such as the one currently being proposed, may discourage people from being counted and may not result in an accurate population count as mandated by the Constitution. The proposed addition is currently the subject of pending litigation, with the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments today on the case. Udall has previously urged the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General to closely review Secretary Ross’s proposal.

New Mexico is more at-risk for undercounting in the 2020 census than any other state. When communities are undercounted, they receive fewer federal resources. This is especially troubling for areas like Southeastern New Mexico, which rely heavily on federal investment in health care, childhood development, infrastructure, and public education to provide essential services to communities. For every individual that the census misses, thousands of dollars in federal funding would be lost each year, and even a one percent undercount could mean a loss of hundreds of millions over a decade.    

“The census is a cornerstone of American democracy, and one of the most powerful tools at our disposal to ensure the fair and equal distribution of resources and representation,” Udall said. “It reflects the bedrock principle that our country was founded on and that we’ve worked to realize more fully with each generation: the idea that everyone counts – no matter where they grow up or what they look like. Adding the Trump administration’s proposed citizenship question would violate these values, and  discourage immigrants and their families from participating in the 2020 census -- all while increasing costs, decreasing accuracy, and collecting skewed figures.”

“I represent communities all along the U.S-Mexico border, especially in Southeastern New Mexico, that are growing fast -- and growing more and more skeptical of entrusting this administration with their personal information. And when our communities are undercounted, our hospitals, schools, roads, infrastructure, water systems and more are underfunded,” Udall continued. “This bill ensures that any proposed changes to the count are properly tested beforehand, which would prevent this administration’s profoundly misguided proposal from inevitably diminishing the voices of countless New Mexicans. As a border state senator, I am deeply committed to carrying out our Constitutional obligation to count all those living in the United States, and I pledge to help ensure that every person is counted, and every voice is heard – in New Mexico and across the country.” 

The Census IDEA Act would:

  • — Prevent last-minute operational changes that have not been properly researched, studied, and tested at least 3 years prior to the next decennial census date;
  • — Ensure that subjects, types of information, and questions that have not been submitted to Congress according to existing law are not included;
  • — Require biannual reports on the U.S. Census Bureau’s operation plan, including the status of its research and testing; a report on the agency’s operational plan 5 years prior to the next decennial census; and require that these reports be publicly available on the Bureau’s website;
  • — Direct the U.S. Government Accountability Office to determine and report to Congress that the subjects, types of information, and questions on the decennial census have been researched, studied, and tested to the same degree as previous decennial censuses; and
  • — Apply the provisions of this bill only to the decennial census, and not the mid-decade census or the American Community Survey.

The Census IDEA Act is supported by the American Anthropological Association, American Civil Liberties Union, American Sociological Association, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Coalition on Human Needs, Common Cause, Consortium of Social Science Associations, Japanese American Citizens League, NAACP LDF, NALEO Educational Fund, National Education Association, National Employment Law Project, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, National Urban League, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Service Employees International Union, Society for Research in Child Development, and Union of Concerned Scientists.