Immigrant groups call U.S. Census question on citizenship 'catastrophic'

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Immigrant groups call U.S. Census question on citizenship 'catastrophic.' (KTRK)

Some fear a new addition to the 2020 U.S. Census could cause Texas to lose out on congressional seats and millions of dollars.

This week, the United States Department of Commerce announced it would add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

A decision Damaris Gonzalez isn't feeling good about.

"I'm afraid for my family, and for my community," Damaris Gonzalez said. "It's going to be causing a lot of bad effects on them."

Gonzalez came to the United States illegally as a child.

She now works to help other immigrants.

While she plans to participate in the census, she's worried about others.

"This is just another trick for them to keep our communities in fear," Gonzalez said. "Now more of our people in our community will not be filling out the census."

She's not alone.

National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Texas state director Claudia Ortega-Hogue said this decision came as a shock.

"This census question added at the last minute will be catastrophic," Ortega-Hogue said.

She said her group has spent years educating immigrants about the 2020 census.

The census data is anonymous, and people can skip the citizen question. However, she says the recent political climate has created trust issues with the immigrant community.

"We want everyone counted because at the end of the day, millions of dollars are distributed at a local level that are going to affect us directly," Ortega-Hogue said.

Until 1950, a citizen question was asked every 10 years.

The Commerce Department said the need for accurate data, outweighs the fears of some not participating.

Locally, Harris County Republican chair Paul Simpson doesn't believe it will deter immigrants.

"There's no proof that anybody is going to be intimated by this," Simpson said. "We ought to ask about citizenship, as do much other countries, including places like Germany, France and Mexico itself."

Here's why participation matters.

Census numbers determine congressional seats, and funding.

Although there's fear, Gonzalez hopes she's able to convince enough to take the survey.

"I encourage my community to empower themselves and to raise their voices and to make their families count," Gonzalez said. "They need to know that we have the power to change things around in Texas."

Right now, immigrant groups are encouraging people to write their congressional leaders, encouraging them to not allow the question.

The commerce department had to make the announcement this week.

With the 2020 census approaching, the department had until the end of this month to finalize its questions.
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politicscensusimmigrationimmigration reformHouston
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