Data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau may not seem political or imminently relevant to your life, but I can assure it is both. The census helps dictate how federal tax dollars are spent, based on how many people live in given communities. And it determines long-term representation at the state and local level here in New York. Now, anti-immigrant policymakers are trying to make changes to the census that will endanger everyone’s access to health care, and immigrant communities will be hurt the worst. In a city where over 37 percent were born in another country (more than any other city in the world!), this represents a great threat to the safety and security of so many New Yorkers — and we will not stand for it.
Countless programs depend on the census to collect accurate data to adequately allocate resources that we all rely on. For example, Medicaid, a program that one in five adults rely on in New York State, accounts for 58 percent of census-guided funding. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also distributes funding for Title X — the nation’s program for affordable birth control and other sexual and reproductive health services — based, in part, on the census results. Other services affected by the census include infrastructure spending, foster care and State Children’s Health Insurance Programs (S-CHIP).
Adding a question that requires everyone living in the United States to reveal their immigration status is clearly discriminatory, and fears of reprisal will likely lead to inaccurate data. In the current political climate, immigrant families are already living with daily discrimination, threats of family separation and detention, and fear of harsh immigration enforcement. It is no surprise that members of immigrant and other marginalized communities will not be eager to reveal their citizenship status to government workers knocking on their doors.
With fewer people completing the census, the data will be compromised, resulting in an undercount of marginalized communities, including many immigrant communities right here in New York City. Undercounting these communities means less representation and ultimately fewer services, including health care services.
We know immigrants already have a very difficult time accessing health care as lack of health insurance and fear of detention and deportation have driven them farther and farther into the shadows. Many immigrants, especially undocumented New Yorkers, do not regularly access the primary and preventive health services they need to lead their healthiest lives.
At Planned Parenthood of New York City, we believe that no one’s access to services should be compromised because they belong to an immigrant family or community. We strongly condemn the Trump-Pence administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census. And we are committed to fighting alongside a bipartisan group of former census directors, our communities, and partners to speak out against this injustice and call on U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to reverse this decision.
Christina Chang is the Chief of External Affairs at Planned Parenthood of New York City.