There has been no shortage of ire and indignation about the Trump administration’s aggressive, draconian attacks on America’s black and brown immigrants—and it is warranted. Stories of agents from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) dining at restaurants only to detain kitchen workers , of threats to call ICE on Latinx speaking Spanish, of an immigrant delivering pizza being handed to ICE instead of being handed a tip, and a lawyer who says an ICE agent broke her foot when she showed up to court to represent an undocumented youth have become a too-regular part of our daily news. And, of course, there are thousands of children currently separated from their families by President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on undocumented immigrants.
In recent weeks, as public outrage over the policy grew, the Trump administration was forced to scramble, with the president signing an executive order that purported to stop the family separation, moving instead to lock up parents and children together. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the children who were taken have still not been reunited with their families.
If the last month (if not the last year and a half) has shown anything, it is that the racist rhetoric of the administration comes with sharp teeth. Between the venomous words and the vicious policies, Trump has created a scenario where any person of color might might be suspicious of even the most innocuous interactions with the federal government. Where filling out a form could feel like a danger to yourself and your children.
A form like the Census.
A report out today from the Annie Casey Foundation, a philanthropic institution focused on under-served youth, says that more than a million children ages 0–4 were unaccounted for in the last census—and if nothing is done to fix it between now and 2020 (when the next Census takes place), this massive undercounting could happen again.
And, as if to compound matters, added to the 2020 Census (just days before the deadline!) is a question on citizenship status. Asking “Is this person a citizen of the United States?,” it’s the first time a query like this has appeared on the questionnaire since 1950, according to the report. “It’s hard to know what the impact of the citizenship question is going to be, because there is no testing,” said Laura Speer, lead researcher at the Annie Casey Foundation. “They do a lot of very careful testing in advance,” she said, and the one dress rehearsal done this time didn’t include the question on citizenship.
What will the effect of a citizenship question be in a country where nearly 17 million live in households where at least one person is undocumented? “It’s likely that the addition of that question is going to cause an…undercount or miscount because people will choose not to complete it because of fear,” said Speer referring to the citizenship question. “There’s been enough anecdotal evidence to show that is going to be the case.” In May, immigrant rights groups and the ACLU filed a sixth lawsuit to bar a question on immigrant status from being included in the census.