Westchester County Legislators

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Board Officially Opposes Census Citizenship Question



White Plains, NY — The Westchester County Board of Legislators officially is opposing the addition of a question about citizenship for all respondents to the 2020 census.

On Monday night the board passed a resolution on a bipartisan basis opposing the addition. A copy of the resolution will be submitted as testimony to a congressional oversight committee hearing on the matter.

“This resolution is an unequivocal statement of the Westchester County legislature to Congress that we want everyone counted in the 2020 census, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status,” said Legislator Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon). “The addition of a citizenship question in the 2020 census will undoubtedly suppress participation of immigrants and noncitizens leading to potential massive undercount here in Westchester County and around the country.”

The last decennial census in which all households were asked about citizenship was in 1950, although the government does collect citizenship data in the annual American Community Survey.  

Census data are used to apportion congressional representation and federal funding.

“The present anti-immigrant sentiments coupled with communities feeling threatened and intimidated by ICE raids and other actions of the federal government will likely deter immigrants from participating in the census, where the question relates to their immigration or citizenship status,” Williams said. “This chilling effect may not only affect undocumented persons but many legal residents who are not citizens. Massive undercounting of residents in the census could result in New York losing representation in Congress as well as loss of federal funding here in Westchester County and many other harmful consequences.”

Majority Leader Catherine Parker (D- Harrison, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Rye) said, "The Constitution requires that we count 'the whole number of persons in each State' for purposes of things like congressional representation.  It doesn't say, 'count only the citizens,' or 'intimidate certain groups of people into not being counted.’ Including a citizenship question in the current climate serves to do just that -- intimidate some people into not responding. We need the census to be accurate and thorough, not to be manipulated for political purposes at the cost of fair representation for the people of Westchester.”

Virginia Perez (D-Yonkers) said, “Adding a universal citizenship question in 2020 is an unacceptable misuse of the census process. Given today's political and social climate, it opens up the question of whether or not a constitutionally-mandated counting of all the people living in the U.S., instead will become a way to target the immigrant population.  As someone who came to this country at a very young age, and who represents a district where many people of different ethnicities and immigration statuses reside, I cannot accept this addition.  I hope this resolution by the Board, taken together with the action of various states and municipalities, will lead the Commerce Department to reconsider.”

The resolution passed by a 13-3 vote with Republican Gordon A. Burrows, who represents Bronxville and part of Yonkers, voting with Democrats in support, citing the potential impact on federal aid and representation.


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