Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann joined community members Thursday in celebrating the Supreme Court ruling to stop the Trump Administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census; a move federal oversight agencies estimate would deter participation for communities of color.
“Let me be clear,” said Stegmann. “If the Trump administration thinks that the country is not watching, they are sorely mistaken.”
Stegmann was joined by Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and representatives from Unite Oregon, Latino Network, the Coalition of Communities of Color, United Way of the Columbia Willamette, Portland’s Office of Community and Civic Life, Portland State University’s Population Research Center, the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette and the Oregon Food Bank.
“We need to stay committed to ensure the integrity of the census,” Stegmann told press Thursday. “This morning’s decision is being celebrated across the country but we have to remember this is one victory in a long battle.”
In a majority decision, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts issuing the opinion, the Supreme Court placed a hold on the citizenship question, stating that the Trump Administration had not provided a “real reason” to add the question to the form and the sole explanation provided “seems to have been contrived.”
The case was remanded back to the Department of Commerce Secretary for clarity and the lower court for further proceedings.
The decision comes just days before the July 1 deadline when census forms are set for print; a deadline the Trump Administration has now called to push back. The Constitution requires that every 10 years, the federal government take a complete count of every person living in the United States. Census data influences how Congressional and state legislative boundaries are drawn, as well as Electoral College votes. It also impacts local governments, which rely on federal aid for Medicaid reimbursement and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school lunches, highway planning, Women Infants and Children (WIC) services and foster care programs.
The decision has a big impact on Oregon, poised to gain a 6th seat in the U.S. House because of a population increase. Formulas, based on decennial census data, determine Oregon’s portion of some $900 billion in federal funds.
But communities the census struggles to count, such as people experiencing homelessness, low-income families, communities of color and people who speak a language other than English at home have been less likely to complete the survey without additional follow up. This is compounded by fear in communities that are already distrustful of government contact.
“There have been deep, intentional efforts to stoke fear within our communities,” Stegmann said. “This is not an accident. Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision we all need to continue our efforts to ensure maximum participation and inclusion in the 2020 Census.”
Stegmann, along with Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and Gresham City Councilor Eddy Morales are leading Multnomah County’s Complete Count Committee, to help ensure as accurate and complete count as possible. Community partners including the Coalition of Communities of Color, Unite Oregon, Latino Network have joined the effort to reach underrepresented communities.
Carmen Rubio, executive director of Latino Network said that nonprofit serves more than 7200 families in Multnomah and Washington counties, providing the Latinx community with culturally specific education, early childhood services, family stability services and wraparound supports to youth experiencing risk factors and their families.
“These programs would not be possible without state and local investments that are allocated every year using valuable census information,” Rubio said. “That means that our Latinx participation in the 2020 Census is crucial.”
The Trump Administration argued that adding the question was legal and would help the Justice Department comply with the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voter rights. But opponents say the argument is inconsistent with research provided by the Census Bureau itself, that showed a citizenship question would lower response rates among immigrants and communities of color.
“We know this question was never about gathering data or improving government services,” said City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. “It was always another racist tool of the Trump Administration to intimidate immigrant and refugee communities.”
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling confirms the intent of our framers, to count every person in the United States once a decade to ensure the fair and unfettered distribution of our shared resources and the furtherance of our republic — irrespective of how we got to the country,” stressed Marcus Mundy Executive Director at the Coalition of Communities of Color.
“Every person, that’s an unambiguous term, every person should be counted.”
Stegmann, who grew up in the Rockwood neighborhood, one of the most underserved communities in the state, shared her commitment to the census process and dedication to serving members of the community who need it most.
“An accurate census count determines investments that are needed for our communities, our friends, our neighbors, and our families,” she said.
REMARKS FROM LOCAL LEADERS REGARDING THE SUPREME COURT 2020 CENSUS CITIZEN QUESTION
COMMISSIONER LORI STEGMANN
This morning the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to temporarily halt the citizenship question from being included on the 2020 Census. While this issue is far from settled, the nation’s highest court sent a clear message that the administration is not free to make untested and politically motivated decisions at will.
Although the administration had hoped that the Supreme Court would clear the way for it to include the question, the justices instead sent the issue back to the Department of Commerce. While many of us woke to celebrations, our work is far from done and we cannot let our guard down as these challenges threaten our Constitution and democracy.
Today, I am joined by our partners across Multnomah County to say we must do everything in our power to secure a complete and accurate census count. We will not stand for these continued efforts to divide and dissuade our community members from being counted and this means keeping watch on the development of this ruling and how the administration responds.
I grew up in the Gresham neighborhood of Rockwood, one of the most underserved communities in our state. An accurate census count determines investments that are needed for our communities, our friends, our neighbors, and our families. This is critical for services like Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school lunches, transportation planning, services for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and foster care programs.
I am proud to partner with Portland City Commissioner Eudaly and Gresham City Councilor Morales, in leading our Complete Count Initiative and I know we are each committed to making sure everyone is counted. The census impacts all of us, that’s why we are here together today to celebrate this victory but we need to continue our efforts to move our democracy forward.
Standing with me are community partners from Unite Oregon, the Coalition of Communities of Color, Latino Network, United Way and the Oregon Food Bank. I’m also honored to have the support of Portland State University’s Population Research Center and the Office of Governor Kate Brown as well as our entire board here at Multnomah County. We stand with hundreds of local government partners across the country working diligently to be sure our communities are counted.
The clock is ticking, we need to stay committed to ensure the integrity of the census. This morning’s decision is being celebrated across the country but we have to remember this is one victory in a long battle.
There have been deep, intentional efforts to stoke fear within our communities. This is not an accident. Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision we all need to continue our efforts to ensure maximum participation and inclusion in the 2020 Census — particularly among hard-to-count communities that include: people of color, urban and low-income households, immigrants, non-English speaking populations, and young children.
Let me be clear. This is about power and money. In Oregon, an additional congressional seat is at stake, and our portion of nearly $900 billion a year in federal funding. If the Trump administration thinks that the country is not watching, they are sorely mistaken.
GRESHAM CITY COUNCILOR EDDY MORALES
“I’m happy with the ruling but the work is not done, we must ensure our local courts uphold it. Our communities of color and poor people are the hardest to count and in most need of resources provided by federal funds." — Gresham Councilor Eddy Morales, member of the Complete Count Committee in Multnomah County.
PORTLAND CITY COMMISSIONER CHLOE EUDALY
“We know this question was never about gathering data or improving government services. It was always another racist tool of the Trump Administration to intimidate immigrant and refugee communities. I’m proud to be a part of a community that represents a city that stands with immigrant and refugee communities."
Traditionally hard to count communities “especially deserve to know they have a right to be counted and to participate freely in civic affairs and to have political representation and power.
KAYSE JAMA/UNITE OREGON
“This ruling will protect our democracy and our nation. The Supreme Court will make sure that our community participates and immigrants and refugees participate freely and without fear. Our community also feels empowered by the Court's decision. It affirms that we count and we matter.”