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As we begin 2020, its important to recognize that something happening throughout this year will have a large effect on the state of Alabama and its political landscape for the next decade.
No, despite its importance, it’s not the presidential election in November of this year. I’m talking about the United States census being taken this year.
The U.S. census counts the population of the United States at the beginning of each decade. One of the most consequential elements of the census is it directly affects each state’s representation in Congress.
The House of Representatives has 435 voting members, which are divided among the 50 states by population according to the census. Alabama currently holds seven of the 435 seats, but in the upcoming census, the state is preparing to lose a seat.
Losing a seat would have consequences including loss of federal funding for things like infrastructure.
One problem is Alabama’s participation rate in the census isn’t great.
In the 2000 census, only 68% of Alabama residents filled out the census, and in 2010, only 72% of Alabamians participated in the census, according to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).
One way to get Alabama’s census numbers up is to encourage all residents in the state, no matter their citizenship status, to fill out the census.
The problem is that’s not what Alabama’s elected officials want to happen — not just in our state but in every state.
Alabama’s elected officials, such as State Attorney General Steve Marshall, have joined the Trump administration’s push to include a citizenship question on the upcoming census.
Asking a question of citizenship is likely to deter thousands of undocumented immigrants from filling out the census.
Though immigrants make up just 3% of the population in Alabama, that’s still about 170,000 people, according to the American Immigration Council. Of those 170,000 about 65,000 are undocumented.
Even though undocumented immigrants make up only 1.3% of the Alabama population, that still can be significant number in the census and could be a determining factor in whether our state will lose a seat.
But the larger scheme at hand by the Trump administration is to chip away at the power of states with higher immigrant populations like California by issuing executive orders and navigating through the court system.
In California, immigrants make up 27% of the state’s population. There are about 2.4 million undocumented immigrants in the state, which makes up about 6% of the state’s population.
California is already at risk of losing a seat, according to census estimates, and undocumented immigrants not being counted in the census will hurt the state, which is exactly what the administration wants.
Here in Alabama, we should do everything we can to make sure that everybody residing in our state is accounted for in the census even if some residents aren’t citizens.
Doing so would side by precedent set as far back as 1960 when a citizenship question was not asked in the census and has not been asked since.
Asking a citizenship question is a tactic for partisan gain that would not truly show our country’s population.