The East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) denounces the addition of a question on citizenship and the lack of inclusion for LGBTQ+ communities in the US 2020 Census. These decisions will only lead to a further lack of data on marginalized communities.
The US Census occurs every 10 years and while it’s primary goal is to count every resident of the United States, it has also been used as a large-scale survey to collect data on gender, race, employment, housing, and many other traits. The data collected is considered one of the best sources of information about the United States’ population and is used by businesses, researchers, and non-governmental organizations to inform significant operational decisions. The Census is also used to help determine Congressional apportions for the next ten years. The data gathered can directly impact the quality and availability of services for marginalized communities like healthcare and education.
Contrary to some statements, the citizenship question has never been a question on the short-form Census that is sent to every household. Previously, it has only existed in the long form survey which was later replaced by the American Community Survey.
This question directly undermines immigrant representation in the US Census. With a question asking directly about citizenship status, undocumented immigrants and mixed status households will undoubtedly be more hesitant to participate in the 2020 Census in fear of deportation. With an estimated 1 out of 7 Asian Americans undocumented and hundreds of Pacific American DACA recipients, this question will lead to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders being undercounted in the census and less able to advocate for resources.
We cannot look at this question in a vacuum. Our political environment is increasingly hostile to undocumented Americans, from numerous state bills to increase the power of ICE to the ambiguous future of DACA, undocumented immigrants have plenty of reason to fear disclosing their citizenship status. Rather than giving us more information about these groups, this census question will just lead to inaccurate data.
This is not the only pressing issue in the 2020 Census. The US Census Bureau also left out questions concerning sexual orientation and gender identity in the current 2020 Census and American Community Survey drafts. This will serve to only further marginalize LGBTQ+ people, a group that lacks access to many resources. There is still little known about the LGBTQ+ population in the US and without representation in the census count, LGBTQ+ individuals will lack data that would be an effective tool to advocate for necessary housing and labor protections.
LGBTQ+ individuals have too long been neglected and failed by US policies, and the exclusion of this question is another way to ensure that queer and trans people continue to be denied equal services and access to vital resources such as proper healthcare. When LGBTQ+ youth make up 20-40% of the total homeless youth population and when LGBTQ+ individuals are often discriminated against when seeking healthcare, this lack of adequate data collection become another blow against an already marginalized community. LGBTQ+ people of color face even greater disparities when it comes to accessing HIV/AIDS treatment, healthcare, and housing. The census would have been an excellent opportunity to increase our knowledge of the LGBTQ+ community so that researchers, activists, and other organizations could make better decisions to improve resources to this underserved community.
The US Census is one of the most critical collections of data in the United States. The inclusion of a citizenship question and the lack of inclusion of questions on sexual orientation and gender identity will only make this body of data more inaccurate and less effective.
Run solely by volunteers, The East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to inspire, educate, and empower those interested in Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) issues.
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @ECAASU | ECAASU.org