Silicon Valley leaders push for participation in 2020 census
Supervisor Dave Cortese is pictured in this file photo. Photo by Kyle Martin.

In a year, Silicon Valley officials will hit the streets to begin counting people for the 2020 U.S. Census, which happens every 10 years.

Beginning on April 1, 2020, census officials, volunteers and a multitude of Silicon Valley-area organizations will begin counting the region’s residents. They gathered Tuesday morning at San Jose’s Mexican Heritage Plaza to begin the year-long countdown to the count.

The census has been under scrutiny since 2017 when the possibility of a citizenship question was first reported. The Trump administration pushed hard last year for inclusion of the question, with government agencies throughout the country fighting back with lawsuits.

The city of San Jose, along with California immigrant rights group Black Alliance for Just Immigration, sued census officials and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to remove the citizenship question last April. A U.S. District Court judge in California ruled last month in favor of the city’s lawsuit, finding the addition of the citizenship question unconstitutional.

“Secretary Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census undermines our belief that in San Jose everyone counts,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo in a statement.

“We’re not big fans of it, either,” added Nicholas Kuwada, Santa Clara County’s 2020 Census program manager. “If you ask Santa Clara [County], we want it off.”

He also addressed fears in immigrant communities about the question, saying, “people still think ‘if I answer the citizenship question, my landlord is going to kick me out.’”

Kuwada on Tuesday stressed the county’s hope for all to participate in the 2020 count, saying “an undercount could lead to a loss of political power,” referencing an undercount in 1990 which led to a loss of one congressional seat.

He also pointed out that an undercount could lead to a loss of funds for vital government programs, such as WIC Vouchers and Section 8 housing. “All those things go away. If you’re not counted, you’re actually shrinking the amount of money available,” he said.

Interim CEO of Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits Wendy Ho said Tuesday the organizations her council works with depend on government contracts to operate, meaning they need as accurate a count as possible.

“We hope ultimately that money will flow into some of our nonprofits,” Ho said. “If we don’t have an accurate count, that means less money in our county, which means less help for our most vulnerable (residents).”

The most vulnerable in the count include low-income renters, those experiencing homelessness or on the verge of it and undocumented residents who hold fears of deportation.

David Campos, a deputy county executive for Santa Clara County, gave his own perspective on the importance of census participation by sharing a personal story about attending Stanford University, where he received an undergraduate degree in political science, as an undocumented immigrant.

“I was so afraid of being deported as a Stanford student that I wore my Stanford sweatshirt everywhere I went off-campus,” Campos said.

Now he’s working to ensure that as much of Santa Clara County is counted for the census so that government agencies learn how to help residents. “Your neighbors’ participation is just as important as your own participation,” he said.

Supervisor Dave Cortese said ensuring an accurate census count helps California fight back against the Trump administration’s policies.

“There’s going to be a big county effort, really a campaign, to make sure as many people are counted as possible,” Cortese said in an interview Tuesday. “We really have concern about whether or not the powers that be in the executive branch are really interested in getting a full count in California.”

He also offered that transportation should be an area of concern, and another reason for residents to fill out the census questionnaire.

Bob Davila, representing the U.S. Census Bureau, agreed.

“If you’re here legally, illegally, everybody counts,” he said.

Contact Kyle Martin at kylebmartin96@gmail.com or follow him @Kyle_Martin35 on Twitter.

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