Duckworth, Garcia, Schakowsky call for accurate census count

Trump’s citizenship question threatens to trim Illinois congressional representatives

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia says a proposed question on U.S. citizenship threatens to skew the 2020 Census. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia says a proposed question on U.S. citizenship threatens to skew the 2020 Census. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

Three prominent members of the Illinois congressional delegation called for an accurate 2020 U.S. Census count last week — and railed against the Trump administration’s proposed inclusion of a question on U.S. citizenship.

Playing host to a community briefing in Chicago on the upcoming census, Sen. Tammy Duckworth said it was essential to get an accurate population count to assure Illinois gets fair representation in Congress.

“The census has a real impact on our everyday lives,” Duckworth said. “Historically, many of our more vulnerable communities have been undercounted. This matters because the census determines the distribution of congressional seats and federal funding, and a lower response rate means that our state gets fewer dollars than we need and less representation than we deserve.”

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia of Chicago said an accurate count was jeopardized by the potential inclusion of a question on U.S. citizenship, proposed by President Trump.

“My constituents would be deeply affected and lose critical funding and full representation if the citizenship question were to be included in the 2020 Census,” he said. “Two courts have already struck down the Trump administration’s decision to include it on the census. We must continue working with partners and community organizations to ensure the integrity of our democracy and the constitutional mandate to count every person living in the United States.”

Garcia was elected last fall to replace Congressman Luis Gutierrez in a largely Hispanic district in Chicago. He previously criticized the citizenship question while a commissioner on the Cook County Board, including filing an affidavit in a federal suit about the citizenship question.

Critics charge that, given the aggressive prosecution of undocumented immigrants by the Trump administration, many would be reluctant to answer the census if it included a question on citizenship, as they’d fear it might be used to track them down. Two court decisions have already ruled against including the citizenship question in the 2020 Census, the latest one earlier this month. Undocumented immigrants are expected to register for the census, to get an accurate count of the people living in the United States, citizens or not, and they could determine whether Illinois loses seats in the House of Representatives after 2020.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston likewise chimed in calling for an accurate count of the Illinois population, saying, “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the 2020 Census to every American. There is so much at stake, with 132 programs that distribute $675 billion using census data, ranging from Medicaid to federal direct student loans. Our communities rely on this funding, and we must ensure that all populations are represented and counted accurately. Our children, family, friends and neighbors depend on it.”

Duckworth first criticized the Trump administration on the citizenship question last May, and she continued her attacks last week, saying, “The census doesn’t just matter for constitutional scholars, it matters for each of us who care about our families’ health and our kids’ education, for our veterans’ well-being and our nation’s strength.”