Last week, your Chamber submitted comments to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) once again expressing our concern that any barrier to accurately count our residents in the 2020 Census will affect the appropriate funding we receive from the federal government for infrastructure and services.
Last year, the Department of Commerce announced that a citizenship question, which has not been asked of all households since 1950, would be included on the 2020 census. The Department of Justice (DOJ) pushed for inclusion of the question, arguing that it would allow the department to better enforce the Voting Rights Act – designed to secure the right to vote for racial minorities throughout the country.
The Chamber firmly believes that the citizenship question will inevitably jeopardize the overall accuracy of the population count by significantly deterring participation in immigrant communities such as ours. According to the American Community Survey (ACS) 2012-2016 projections, 14.2% of our population is foreign-born, and 63.6% are Hispanic or Latino, with our population expected to grow by one million by 2040. The census informs the distribution of more than $600 billion in federal funding for the cornerstones of economic growth, including infrastructure, healthcare, education, and workforce training. It is imperative that San Antonio and the surrounding region are accurately represented in the census to strategically manage our growth and maintain our success. Any barriers to achieving an accurate count would hinder our ability to serve the needs of our growing community, of which 24.3% are living below the poverty level.
Bexar County has had historic challenges implementing the census. According to the latest Census estimates, approximately 25% of our current population (469,564 people) live in hard-to-count neighborhoods. Without an accurate census count, more households in these and other neighborhoods in the county are at risk of being missed in the 2020 census, which is further exacerbated by the digital divide. According the 2016 ACS, 19.5% of Bexar County’s households had either no internet subscriptions or only dial-up access. Additionally, the citizenship question has only been asked yearly in the ACS, which reaches 2.6% of the population, and never in a digital format. The Census Bureau’s own research support the conclusion that the question would have a negative impact on households’ self-response.
While we will continue to raise our concerns about the inclusion of the citizenship question, we will also work with partners across the community to ensure we reach the most accurate count in order to support our great city and our residents.