Update to Trump Administration Appeals Census Case to SCOTUS.

The Trump administration’s blatant sabotage of the 2020 Census to create a deliberate undercount and to manipulate the data to give white rural areas an advantage over heavily populated diverse urban areas, i.e., a partisan division between Red America vs. Blue America to give the minority party Republicans an advantage, is going to cost the state of Arizona millions of dollars it is going to need to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact, and could cost Arizona an anticipated additional congressional seat.

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The current September 30 deadline, which was abruptly announced and is a month earlier than the previous deadline, “threatens a massive undercount of the country’s communities of color and the municipalities, cities, counties, and states where they live.”

The Arizona Mirror reports, AZ could lose $600 million if Census response doesn’t improve:

While Arizona ranks at the bottom of 2020 Census response, a new congressional report estimates the state would lose more than $600 million in federal funding over the next decade if just 1% of the population isn’t counted.

On average, about 89% of U.S. households have responded to the 2020 census, which was launched nationally in mid March when the pandemic was grappling the country. In Arizona, about 82% of the state’s residents have responded, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The report was released by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

“Each person who gets counted in the 2020 Census brings in about $887 per year in funding for Medicaid, CHIP [Children’s Health Insurance Program], and foster care assistance programs” in Arizona, the report said.

It estimates that a 1% undercount in Arizona would mean:

      • A more than $55 million loss in federal funding for healthcare programs like Medicaid, CHIP and foster-care support.
      • The state’s schools could lose nearly $3.5 million in federal funding.
      • The state could lose more than $1.7 million in federal funding for job programs

Certain groups are at higher risk of being undercounted, including children under 5, and Black, Latino and Native residents.

Note: The Navajo Nation and Gila River Indian Community have joined a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s intent to end counting efforts for the 2020 Census a month earlier than initially planned. 2 Arizona tribes join lawsuit against U.S. Census Bureau for plan to end count early:

Many of our existing programs rely on federal funding, which is based on census data,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez stated in a news release. “Once again, the first people of this country are having to fight for what is right and just.

Both the Navajo Nation and Gila River Indian Community late Wednesday announced they joined a lawsuit against the Bureau and the U.S. Department of Commerce because of the expedited plan.

The lawsuit — filed in a California District Court  — aims to revert the Bureau’s plan back to its October timeline, according to a complaint.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 10% of the homes in the Gila River Indian Community have responded to the 2020 census online, by mail or phone. In the Navajo Nation, the 2020 census self-response rate is 19%. The national average self-response rate is 66%, census figures show.

The abrupt decision to end the count early has added to concerns that the Trump administration has deliberately tried to suppress Latinos and other minority groups from filling out the census. Grassroots groups scrambling to avoid Latino census undercount amid COVID-19, early cutoff:

With less than three weeks until census counting ends, grassroots groups face a monumental challenge: avoiding another large undercount of Latinos, who make up a third of Arizona’s population.

“We are not doing very well,” said Anakarina Rodriguez, Arizona census campaign manager for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

NALEO has been helping grassroots groups by analyzing census data to identify census tracts with self-response rates below 50%. The data is shared with grassroots groups so they can target outreach efforts to Latinos and other communities of color in those areas.

The most recent census data shows that just 62.3% of households in Arizona have self-completed the census form either online or by phone. That is below the 65.6% national self-response rate and ranks 31st out of 50 states.

Every household has the option of filling out the census form online, by phone or by mail. The Census Bureau also sends enumerators to knock on the doors of households that haven’t filled out the form, but those efforts also have been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maricopa, Arizona’s most populous county, had a 66.2% self-response rate, as of Sept. 10. But census data shows that many predominantly Latino census tracks within Maricopa County have self-response rates of 50% or lower.

“We still have a lot to do to ensure a full and accurate account from now until the end of this month,” Rodriguez said. “The deadline is now Sept. 30 and we are still seeing lagging self-response rates.”

A 2016 NALEO report estimated 32,000 Latino children alone in Arizona went uncounted in the 2010 census, the vast majority of them in Maricopa County.

Census population counts are used to allocate congressional seats, with states such as Arizona with growing populations standing to gain seats at the expense of states with declining populations.

The census also is used to distribute billions of dollars in federal funding used by states for a wide range of services including highway construction, state public water systems, schools and programs such as emergency services, substance abuse treatment, Medicare, and Head Start.

An undercount in 2020 could cost Arizona, a state with a high number of Latinos and other hard-to-count communities, hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding over the next decade, according to a February University of Arizona report.

It could lead to unequal political representation and unequal access to public and private resources for Latinos and other hard-to-count groups.

A recent Somos UnidosUS survey of Latinos showed that 29% of Latinos in Arizona still hadn’t filled out the census, compared to 24% nationally. Among the Arizona Latinos who said they hadn’t filled out the census form, 47% said they hadn’t received a postcard invitation to fill out the census form online. Another 15% said they hadn’t filled out the form because they did not want to share information with the federal government.

Some of that fear stems from the Trump administration’s [previous] attempt to add a citizenship question on the census, said Clarissa Martinez, deputy vice president at UnidosUS, a national civil rights organization.

More recently, Trump signed in July a memorandum that undocumented immigrants should not be counted as part of the census for allocating congressional seats. A court also blocked that attempt. [Now on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court].

“People may decide not to count themselves in the census because of that confusion and intimidation that (Trump) is trying to stir up,” Martinez said.

How to make sure the census counts you (excerpt):

You should have received a letter in the mail earlier this year with a 12-digit census ID (here’s a sample). That letter will instruct you to go to www.my2020census.gov, click “start questionnaire,” enter your census ID, and then answer all the questions about your name, address, who lives in your household, etc. And no, you will not be asked about your citizenship status. You can also respond to your census letter by mail or phone.

If you don’t have a census ID because you either don’t want to wait for it to come in the mail or it just never came at all, you can still fill out the online form. Just go to the website and navigate to the “if you do not have a Census ID, click here” button on the login page. You’ll have to answer a few additional questions about your address, but you should be able to complete the census after that.

If you’re still lost, the Census Bureau also put out a very detailed video on how to complete the online census that might help:

There are also Census “enumerators” in the field, i.e., federal Narfu hunters, Non-Responsive Follow-Up (NRFU).

Rosemary Armao describes her experience as a Naru hunter in the The Washington Post today. I’m a census enumerator. Each person I count feels like a victory.

NRFU (Non-Responsive Follow-Up) is how the U.S. Census Bureau describes those Americans — roughly 35 percent of the population — who have not returned their 2020 Census questionnaires. My job is to track them down.

I raised my right hand and took the oath as a census enumerator, swearing to uphold the Constitution, including Article 1, Section 2, which calls for counting “the whole Number” of persons in the United States every 10 years. Then I completed 12 hours of online training, with actors posing as people I might encounter. One guy came to the door with a gun. Another asked: “Why should I care about the census?”

Actually, all of us should care. The count is the basis for divvying up political spoils, including federal funds for highways, schools and housing. It decides the number of representatives your state sends to Washington. People left out of the census get ignored.

Narfu hunting is strenuous and tricky. I imagined working an eight-hour day, at $20 an hour, but I can seldom do more than six. I am assigned about 50 houses a day but rarely reach that many, as I search for missing buildings and tenants who moved out months ago. I bring along packages of peanut M&M’s, rewarding myself two at time after successful interviews and a whole handful when things don’t go so well.

I thought the job would be a snap for a lifelong reporter who has worked and traveled around the world. Approaching strangers and asking for their date of birth, race and national origins? Nothing to it. I hadn’t reckoned on all the animosity, ignorance and fear out there, or the awkwardness of talking to people through a mask.

I haven’t encountered someone who answered her doorbell with a gun — but doorbells themselves are a problem. These days, friends use cellphones to call from the driveway and say they have arrived. A ring at the front door spells trouble. Many of the houses I visit have holes in the door frames where doorbells used to exist or tacked-up notes saying, “Bell not working.”

Even when a doorbell works and I can hear people inside, often no one answers. Enumerators are not allowed to peek in windows or enter private property, but the etiquette sometimes gets murky. If I see a unit off the main house and a side door with a doorbell, do I walk through a gate to get to the door?

In this case, I was two steps in when a Doberman came racing around the back of the house with teeth bared. Dog bites are the second-leading cause of injury to census workers, after falls, but we can’t carry Mace or pepper spray. All I had was my nylon briefcase marked CENSUS in big block letters. I held it out and backed away slowly, crooning, “Noooo, noooo,” until I got to the gate and slammed it between me and Cujo. Then I headed back to my car for a load of M&M’s.

I have provoked my own share of fear. I showed my ID to a young man who said he had to get his mother and quickly shut the door. I heard rustling and whispering and finally a woman cautiously reopened the door. Seeing my ID, she yelled into the house, “You dummy! It’s the Census Bureau, not the FBI.”

[P]eople driving by and seeing my census briefcase honk or wave. “Thanks for doing what you are doing!” they yell, as I stand staring at a weed-filled lot where there used to be a building with people in it.

Census workers are instructed to avoid talking about politics and not to wear clothing with writing on it. We are equally bland in the face of NRA decals and pro-choice stickers, although I do enjoy funny messages on doormats, like the one that said, “Hide Packages From My Husband.” I no longer believe the ones that say, “Welcome,” but I know I am not the only census worker who does an internal fist pump whenever I secure an interview with an immigrant “yearning to breathe free,” as it says on the Statue of Liberty.

Census workers know that every Narfu successfully concluded reduces by a little bit the undercount this White House seems intent on forcing in 2020. The Supreme Court blocked the census from asking whether people are U.S. citizens, but now the bureau wants to stop the head count on Sept. 30, a month earlier than scheduled. The census got off to a late start because of coronavirus shutdowns, and when it concludes is a question before the courts. The administration says that stopping early is merely a matter of meeting deadlines, but to us Narfu hunters, it feels like sabotage.

It also feels like a warning. Come November, ballots instead of census forms could go uncounted. Let us all do what we can to make sure they get the numbers right then, too.

The California District Court is holding a hearing today on extending the Census deadline. I will follow up later.

UPDATE: It looks like sanctions are in order for these government attorneys. Court Order Keeps Census In Limbo As Counting End Date Looms (excerpts):

This month, the administration was put under a temporary restraining order issued by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, who has directed the bureau to pause its plans to wrap up census operations for now. That order was set to expire Thursday when a hearing on the challengers’ request to force counting to continue through Oct. 31 was scheduled to take place.

But that hearing was canceled after Justice Department attorneys missed a deadline for producing a complete record of internal Commerce Department documents for the lawsuit. The attorneys also told Koh the administration would likely not be able to finish filing other required documents this week.

“Defendants’ failure to comply with the Court’s Order is unacceptable,” Koh wrote in a court order issued late Tuesday in the Northern District of California.

The judge has now ordered the administration to file documents by Friday ahead of a rescheduled hearing that’s expected to be held on Sept. 22.

“I understand the urgency of the ruling and the gravity of the situation here,” Koh emphasized Tuesday during a court conference, adding that she will do her “utmost to get a ruling out as soon as possible” after the hearing.

The winding down of the 2020 census must remain on hold nationwide through Sept. 24 at the latest, a federal judge in California has ordered.

 




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