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Anomalies found in Census data risk a late delivery, and further jeopardize its integrity. Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Anomalies found in Census data risk a late delivery, and further jeopardize its integrity. Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

This is what the late Census count means for undocumented immigrants and redistricting

The Hispanic Caucus called the count “too important to rush.”

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Should the 2020 Census count miss the Dec. 31 deadline for reporting apportionment numbers, it would be a blow to President Donald Trump’s longtime efforts to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted. His administration would have used the undercount to distribute how many congressional seats each state gets, and how $1.5 trillion in federal spending is distributed — to its favor.

On Wednesday, Nov. 18 the New York Times reported three Census Bureau officials told the Commerce Department that abnormalities in the large-scale data-processing operation have delayed the completion of population totals until as late as mid-February. 

The deadline to fill-out the 2020 Census officially ended on Oct. 15, after the Trump administration doubled-back on an extension.

But even after ending the count two weeks early, Trump would need to receive the numbers from the Census Bureau before his term ends on Jan. 20 to alter the numbers — to exclude undocumented immigrants — before he hands it off to Congress for certification.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has raised that this isn’t the only issue at hand. Yes, Trump’s administration may not be able to make the alterations it had wished, but several demographics, namely Black, Latinx, and Indigenous populations in hard-to-reach areas are still subject to an undercount.

The condensed schedule worries experts, reported the Washington Post, as quality-control measures have been dropped in the rush to meet the deadline. The Post also reported the government has also not explained how it plans to identify and count undocumented immigrants, as no accurate lists exist.

In previous years, the Census Bureau took roughly 20-26 weeks to complete the post-count data quality checking activities.  This year they are taking only 11 weeks if they are to meet the deadline. 

Such compression of the process puts a lot into question, especially after a Census count riddled with Covid-related delays, natural disasters, shifting deadlines, and litigation.

Already, there are abnormalities in the data-checking process used for distributing $1.5 trillion in federal funds, apportioning congressional seats, and state redistricting.

The Bureau has given considerable early warnings.

In April, with a pandemic in full swing, the Census Bureau asked Congress to extend the deadline from the statutory Dec. 31 deadline to April 2021. This was given after early warning of such a possibility in May.

The Trump administration also asked Congress to extend the census reporting deadlines by four months.

In May, bureau officials again gave early warning they could no longer deliver the state numbers by year's end because of disruptions caused by Covid-19.

But in July, Trump reversed course and ordered that the statutory deadline must be met, and began pressuring the bureau to stick with the Dec. 31 deadline. This came with a presidential memo calling for the removal of undocumented immigrants from counts used to reallocate the 435 seats in the House, and votes within the Electoral College.

The census’ integrity can still be saved by extending the statutory reporting deadlines to give the Census Bureau the time and space it needs to review, process and tabulate data. A proposal that has been picked up by House Democrats and a small bipartisan group of senators but has yet to become a law, NPR reported.

Even if Trump’s administration surpasses all legal barriers, and if the count is somehow able to deliver numbers before his term is up, there is no viable way of subtracting undocumented migrants from the total.

What is at stake, due to a rushed Census Count, is the accurate representation of all.
 

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