GUEST COMMENTARY: The Constitutional Right We Cannot Afford to Waste
By Toni G. Atkins [EN ESPAÑOL]
California State Senator
Every decade, each person in the United States, young and old, regardless of citizenship, has the Constitutional right to be counted. The Census is the only way for us to determine the true definition of America – whether you live in the largest metropolitan cities or miles down rural routes.
Think of it as a universal selfie.
Reminders about taking the 2020 Census are emblazoned on billboards, featured in television commercials, and sprinkled into social media news feeds. It makes sense, given that approximately $1.5 trillion dollars in federal funding is at stake.
Breaking that down, that means for every person left out of the Census count, California could lose $1,000 per person – per year – for the next 10 years.
That’s a loss of $10,000 per uncounted person until the 2030 Census.
If you have a family of five, your community could lose out on $50,000.
The Census is like planning how much cake to have at a birthday party based on the number of RSVPs. No one wants to miss out on cake because you thought it was OK to just show up
The total pool of funding is distributed to communities based on population and head counts.
This includes babies, children, teenagers, seniors and non-citizens.
The current COVID-19 health crisis also affords an all-too-realistic example of why you need to be counted. We need to ensure that we get our fair share of funding and resources in emergency situations. Funding for a community health clinic in your neighborhood is based on information only you can provide. The data also funds programs and resources like senior services, child health programs, higher education, and job training.
It is clear to me that diversity needs to be reflected, especially for our Black, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, Indigenous and other communities of color. This count is part of the movement we are seeking for justice – it is designed to provide vital funding to right economic disparities.
Your answers help fund programs that serve your community and shape your future. Despite the need to distance, we can still come together through this important count. It is important to note that this is not a citizenship survey. Despite the Supreme Court already having blocked the citizenship question from being included in the Census, the current administration continues to wrongfully attempt to circumvent the law and exclude immigrants in the 2020 Census. Those efforts are unconscionable and unconstitutional.
A recent study from UCSD on behalf of the City of San Diego found that one-third of essential workers in the City of San Diego are immigrants, with high growth among African, Asian and Middle Eastern nations. The report also listed that 27 percent of San Diego’s total population are immigrants, of which 19 percent are undocumented.
Now, more than ever, we need everyone to participate in the 2020 Census so that we can ensure the law, not divisive politics, governs our land. We cannot let people be bullied or made
to live in fear. The Constitution is clear – all people must count.
By filling this form out, you are declaring, “I am here. I exist.” Census workers, called enumerators, will begin going door-to-door to collect Census data. They are not allowed to ask for your social security number, political preference, bank account information, or religious affiliation. It also illegal for the Census Bureau to share your information with law enforcement or any other government agency. And your information cannot be used against you in any way.
So please, consider this my “door-to-door” ask. Have you done a post on Facebook, sent a Tweet or uploaded a picture on Instagram? It’s just as easy to fill out your Census. You can do it
online, over the phone or on paper. In fact, you may also be receiving an email, making it even easier to complete.
The next 10 years of funding can be determined in just 10 minutes of your time.
Make sure you are counted. It is your Constitutional right.
Toni G. Atkins is President pro Tempore of the California Senate. Having previously served as Speaker of the California Assembly, she began her tenure in the Senate in 2016. As Senator for District 39, she represents the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach. Website of President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins: Senate.ca.gov/Atkins