State lawmakers and good government advocates Tuesday called for a $2 million campaign to promote the coming U.S. Census in New York in order to ensure every state resident is counted. Due to sluggish population growth, the state's representation in Washington could erode even further into the next decade.
"It's really important to get it right. The Census is right around the corner," said NYPIRG Legislative Director Blair Horner. "Now is the time to get it done right."
But there's an added concern for New York in the looming 2020 Census that some residents may be undercounted: Lawmakers say newly arrived or undocumented immigrants are at risk for missing the head count. Assemblyman Marcos Crespo says an inaccurate count wouldn't just impact urban communities, but have a statewide effect.
"This is an impact to upstate New York; this is an impact to New York City," said Crespo (D - Bronx). "This is an impact to Long Island. This is an impact to every community, every district."
For immigrant communities, the concern could stem from a federal government that is increasingly taking a tougher approach on enforcing immigration laws. In turn, advocates fear these residents would avoid speaking to federal officials, including Census takers. But the Census won't be used as an enforcement mechanism.
"It's not a matter of targeting one specific population, one specific municipality, but really taking the aggregate of the count, of everyone who lives in New York state," said NALEO Northeast Director Roberto Frugone.
And then there's the concern that the Census itself may be at risk for losing federal funds and won't be promoted enough.
"The bureau can't wait. It's underfunded," said Rockefeller Institute Fellow Jeff Wice. "It's at the lowest point of funding in 2017-2018 than at any point in the last four Census cycles."
After the 2010 Census, New York lost two congressional seats because the state's population did not grow as fast as the rest of the country.