Ensuring the Census Works for All Americans
REPRESENTATIVE REBECCA CHAVEZ-HOUCK (UT), CHAIR LATINO VOTING AND ELECTIONS TASK FORCE
Sponsored by: Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck (UT)
WHEREAS, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution requires that all persons, regardless of race, citizenship or legal status, be counted in the decennial census mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution; and,
WHEREAS, the main constitutional purpose of the decennial census is Congressional reapportionment, but Federal and State laws have extended the impact of the decennial census to congressional redistricting, funding distribution, and civil rights, such as those protected by the Voting Rights Act; and,
WHEREAS, according to the latest studies from the US Census Bureau, at least 132 Federal programs use Census data to distribute more than $675 billion in Federal funds annually; and,
WHEREAS, many states also use Census data to allot state funding for programs; and,
WHEREAS, Federal law requires the U.S. Census to publish data in a manner that does not permit the use of data alone, or in combination with other available information, to identify any respondent because it would violate the assurances of confidentiality provided by federal law; and,
WHEREAS, the decennial Census and other Census Bureau surveys collect data from all “foreign born” residents, regardless of legal status, including naturalized U.S. citizens, immigrants, temporary migrants, refugees, asylees and undocumented migrants; and,
WHEREAS, Title 13, U.S. Code, section 221 states a penalty for not responding or for providing false information to the Census, meaning that the decennial census and all Census Bureau surveys should be conducted in such a way that persons feel welcome to participate and are not threatened with law enforcement interactions that may imply entrapment or other civil rights violations; and,
WHEREAS, according to Census Bureau estimates, Hispanics currently make up the second largest ethnic/racial category in the United States with 17.8% of the population, a share expected to grow to over 25% by 2050; and,
WHEREAS, the Census Bureau estimates that ethnic or racial minority groups which are non-Hispanic and non-Middle Eastern or North African currently comprise 21% of the United States’ population; and,
WHEREAS, despite these facts, the racial category Other was, for the first time, the third most selected in the 2010 decennial Census after White and Black, “alarming officials, who are concerned that if nothing is done ahead of the 2020 census, this non-categorizable category of people could become the second-largest racial group in the United States;” and,
WHEREAS, after years of advocacy from groups representing Americans of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) descent along with extensive testing and recommendations by Census Bureau experts, the Bureau had moved in February 2017 toward the inclusion of that category, which recognizes Americans from about 28 nationalities or ethnicities, including Algerian, Bahraini, Egyptian, Emirati, Iraqi, Iranian, Israeli, Jordanian, Kuwaiti, Lebanese, Libyan, Moroccan, Omani, Palestinian, Qatari, Saudi Arabian, Syrian, Tunisian, and Yemeni, as well as those who identify as Amazigh or Berber, Arab, Assyrian, Bedouin, Chaldean, Copt, Druze, Kurdish or Syriac, in the race and ethnicity portion of the questionnaire; and,
WHEREAS, according to the research conducted by the Bureau, “when no MENA category was available, people who identified as MENA predominantly reported in the White category, but when a MENA category was included, people who identified as MENA predominantly reported in the MENA category,” so the category was useful to those belonging to it; and,
WHEREAS, according to the same research, the inclusion of a MENA category “significantly increased the percentage of respondents reporting as Black or Hispanic,” so the category also benefited the accurate counting of Hispanics and Blacks; and,
WHEREAS, research around alternative origin and race question design has also had the purpose of collecting more accurate detailed data about Latino national origin and sub-groups; and,
WHEREAS, research by the US Census Bureau showed that significantly higher percentages of respondents reported as Hispanic when responding using the combined question formats as opposed to the Separate Question format;
WHEREAS, seven in ten Hispanics chose only ‘Hispanic’ when presented with a combined ethnicity/race question in the Alternative Questionnaire Experiment (AQE); and,
WHEREAS, research by the US Census Bureau also showed that “when Hispanics have an opportunity to choose Hispanic as their category in the combined question, the [Some Other Race] identification drops down to the residual response group that it was intended to be;” and,
WHEREAS, prominent Hispanic organizations and coalitions, such as the NALEO Educational Fund and the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), timely called on the Census Bureau to adopt a combined race and ethnicity question to achieve a more accurate count on the 2020 decennial Census; and,
WHEREAS, despite these calls and the clear benefits to vast segments of Americans, the Census Bureau issued a memorandum on January 26, 2018 announcing that it would neither include the MENA category in the decennial census questionnaire nor use the combined question format for collecting race and ethnicity self-identification data, relying on the outdated standards of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and orally providing an explanation that even “more research and testing is needed” without counterbalancing the potential benefits of the extra research with the detrimental effects of yet another entire decade without accurate data; and,
WHEREAS, as required by Title 13, U.S. Code, Section 141(f), the US Census Burau will deliver the final questionnaire wording to Congress on or before March 31, 2018; and,
WHEREAS, the U.S. Commerce Department estimates that the US Census Bureau is facing a $187 million shortfall for FY2018 and requires at least an additional $3.3 billion in funding through 2020 to conduct the decennial Census; and,
WHEREAS, this Caucus has been emphasizing the importance of an accurate decennial Census for years, approving in 2009 a Resolution (No. 2009-11) by Representative Pedro Marin (GA) calling for full participation and an accurate count in the 2010 Census; and,
WHEREAS, this Caucus has consistently pointed out defects in the data reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, for example, approving in 2006 a Resolution (No. 2006-08) by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (NY), then President of NHCSL, calling for the inclusion of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the other U.S. territories in all the surveys performed in the fifty States and the District of Columbia by the U.S. Census Bureau, a call which is as valid and current today as it was when it was adopted over a decade ago.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators understands that a fair and accurate census is a pivotal civil rights issue for all Americans; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators calls on the Census Bureau to compile accurate and useful data about the United States population which helps to guarantee civil rights and proper funding distributions by ensuring a full count of all Americans, including precisely identifying Native Americans, African Americans, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders, Asian Americans, Americans of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) descent, White Americans, and the members of our Latino communities; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators recognizes and appreciates the efforts by the NALEO Educational Fund and the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), which NHCSL proudly belongs to, timely calling on the Census Bureau to adopt a combined race and ethnicity question to achieve a more accurate count on the 2020 decennial Census; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators condemns the January 26, 2018 decision of the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Census Bureau refusing to include the combined race and ethnicity question and the MENA category, ignoring its own research and testing and the recommendations of its own experts; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators calls on Congress and the President to overturn the January 26, 2018 decision of the OMB and the US Census Bureau by activating the clear intent of the oversight requirements of 13 U.S.C § 141(f) in these circumstances in which the questionnaire proposed by the Bureau fails to fulfill the expectations of the American people; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators delegates on its elected Leadership the decision to participate on any court actions that may serve to further the goals stated above; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators calls on Congress and the President to fully fund the fiscal needs of the US Census Bureau, through the 2020 decennial Census; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, renews its call from Resolution 2006-08 that Congress and the President amend Title 13, Section 184, of the U.S. Code to include Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the other U.S. territories in its definition of State for the performance of intermediate Census surveys; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, renews its call from Resolution 2006-08 that the U.S. Census Bureau include Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the other U.S. territories in the diverse analyses it conducts based on data from the decennial census, which result in the publication of official reports; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that, despite the above glaring defects, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators understands that full participation by everyone in the decennial Census will benefit all residents of the United States and therefore calls on all local, state and national elected officials, along with all persons residing in the United States of America, to cooperate fully with the U.S. Census Bureau to help ensure a full and accurate count in 2020; and,
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that a copy of this Resolution be sent to the President of the United States, the Leadership of both Houses of Congress, the Director of the US Census Bureau, and any other Official, stakeholder or interested party.
UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED BY THE NATIONAL HISPANIC CAUCUS OF STATE LEGISLATORS DURING ITS FEBRUARY 22, 2018 MEETING IN CHICAGO, IL.
- The Constitutional text made an exception for “Indians not taxed” which was later mooted when Congress made all Native Americans US citizens by statute. See 43 Stat. 253 (2 June 1924).
- See for example, "Implementation of the Provisions of the Voting Rights Act Regarding Language Minority Groups." 28 C.F.R. Part 55.
- Marisa Hotchkiss and Jessica Phelan. Uses of Census Bureau Data in Federal Funds Distribution (Sept. 2017, US Census Bureau). Available at: https://www.census.gov/library/working-papers/2017/decennial/census-data-federal-funds.html
- Some of these allotments have been credibly criticized for foregoing feasible and more localized identification of needs but this only serves to highlight the need for an accurate Census. See for example, Sivan Tuchman, Student-Based Allocation of Special Education Funding (Nov. 2016, U. AR. Off. for Ed. Policy) (criticizing the Census-based allotment of special education funding and calling for a student-based allotment method).
- Source: NHCSL analysis of U.S. Census Bureau estimates
- Kelly Matthews, et al, 2015 National Content Test Race and Ethnicity Analysis Report: A New Design for the 21st Century, p. 22 (Feb. 28, 2017, US Census Bureau). Available at https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial/2020/program-management/final-analysis-reports/2015nct-race-ethnicity-analysis.pdf
- Id., at p. xiii.
- Id., at p. 6–7.
- Id., at p. 42.
- Id., at p. 44.
- Id., at p. 42.
- US Census Memorandum 2018.02 (Jan. 26, 2018). Available at: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/2020-census/planning-management/memo-series/2020-memo-2018_02.html
- Hansi Lo Wang, No Middle Eastern Or North African Category On 2020 Census, Bureau Says (NPR Jan. 29, 2018) (quoting Karen Battle, chief of the bureau's population division) Available at: https://www.npr.org/2018/01/29/581541111/no-middle-eastern-or-north-african-category-on-2020-census-bureau-says
- This section also allows the Census to change the questionnaire at any time before the date of the Census if new circumstances so necessitate.