February 6, 2018

Mayor Emanuel Calls on U.S. Department of Commerce to Not Politicize 2020 Census

Chicago Department of Law to consider legal action if citizenship questions are added to 2020 Census
Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

As preparations begin for the 2020 Census, a Constitutionally-mandated population count that occurs once every ten years that helps allocate nearly $700 billion in federal spending, Mayor Rahm Emanuel today sent a letter urging President Donald Trump’s Department of Commerce not to politicize the 2020 Census by adding a question about citizenship status to the Census. Further, he urged the Trump Commerce Department to restore the Census’ outreach program to ensure an accurate population count.

"Adding a citizenship question to the Census would be another direct threat to immigrants who would likely opt out of the process for fear of being targeted by federal authorities, and it would jeopardize millions of dollars in funding for cities like Chicago with strong immigrant communities," said Mayor Emanuel. "The Census helps ensure all residents have access to resources like pre-school for children, affordable housing for working families and effective health programs for those who need them. It's not a game, and while adding a citizenship question would be consistent with the Trump Administration’s ugly efforts to vilify immigrants, it's not consistent with our values."

In a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., Mayor Emanuel explains that efforts to depress Census participation jeopardize the federal funding that the City of Chicago may receive in years to come. Chicago currently receives approximately $1.3 billion annually in federal funds, many of which are apportioned by population, including Community Development Block Grants, Maternal and Child Health Block Grants and Head Start Programs.

Further, the Trump Commerce Department is reportedly considering adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Chicago’s immigrant communities comprise one-fifth of Chicago’s population, and it is estimated that 50,000 Chicago households have undocumented residents. If a citizenship question is added to the Census, a large portion of Chicago’s population would likely not participate in the Census to avoid potentially being targeted by federal authorities.

If the Trump Administration does decide to add a citizenship question to the Census, this act would be a systemic attempt to discourage immigrants and their families from their legal right to participate in the Census. Because efforts to politicize Census counts are dangerous and potentially illegal, the Mayor’s letter states that he has instructed the City’s Corporation Counsel to investigate potential legal action against the Trump Commerce Department if it decides to move forward with the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

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