On March 26, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross added a citizenship question to the 2020 census. We believe the new question will make it harder to get a fair and accurate census. This, in turn, will affect California and communities throughout the state, and has implications for funders and nonprofit organizations alike.
Our organizational values for fairness, inclusion, and health and justice for all have prompted The Endowment to respond as an institution. We joined a philanthropic letter signed by more than 200 foundations that will be filed with the Commerce Department as part of a public comment period, which you can find here.
Under our Constitution, the census serves as a fundamental building block for our democracy, affecting not only the apportionment of our state’s representation at the federal level, but how program investments are made in our communities. For the census to be useful for both the public and the private sector, it must be inclusive of all persons living in the country, not just citizens. Data collected through the census informs a range of local services and decisions including location of schools, hospitals and housing, and helps the private sector make investment decisions about facilities, hiring, and marketing. Census data also influence the allocation of more than $800 billion in federal government resources every year to states and localities. And, the data is used to draw local and state district lines.
The Commerce Department is accepting public comments on the census until August 7. Three organizations have created an easy-to-use portal to submit comments about the citizenship question at http://censuscounts.org.
If you are interested in learning more about the census and the citizenship question, there are materials on the websites of three lead national organizations: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (see the section on “Census, Citizenship, and Immigration/Legal Status”), NALEO Educational Fund, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC (see their debunking citizenship question myths).
We don’t often send this type of information to our partners and grantees. We think this is a critical issue affecting all of us and an important opportunity to speak on behalf of inclusion. Whether or not you choose to comment will have no bearing on our current or future grantmaking relationship. Therefore, your participation is completely voluntary.
Thank you for your consideration,
Robert K. Ross, President & CEO
The California Endowment