With 2020 Census coming — citizenship question or not — there’s a push to count every head in Inland Empire
As debate rages over whether the 2020 Census should include a citizenship question, supervisors in Riverside and San Bernardino counties are joining an effort to sure every Inland resident is counted in the upcoming survey.
The boards of supervisors in both counties recently voted to join a “complete count committee” for the Inland Empire. With technical support from UC Riverside’s Center for Social Innovation, the committee that’s expected to include leaders from local government, business, and nonprofits will try to boost the local response rate in next year’s Census, especially among Inland Empire groups considered difficult to count.
Neither county is committing money to the committee, which is still taking shape and has yet to meet. San Bernardino County supervisors voted to join the committee on Jan. 8 while Riverside County supervisors did the same on Jan. 15.
The committee’s work comes amid a national dispute over the Trump administration’s plans to ask all residents if they are U.S. citizens. Traditionally, the census has counted all people living in the country, not just citizens.
The White House, mainly through Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, has argued the citizenship question is an effort to enforce the Voting Rights Act. But opponents say the question is intended to discourage undocumented immigrants from participating in the census, leading to an undercount that will affect congressional redistricting and how federal money is allocated. More than two dozen states and other plaintiffs are suing to keep the question out of the census.
This month, a federal judge in New York rejected the administration’s argument in an order blocking the question’s addition to the 2020 Census, a ruling the administration hopes will be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Inland committee isn’t dealing with whether citizenship should be a census question. Instead, the focus is on ensuring a full and accurate count of the Inland population, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor at UC Riverside who teaches political science and public policy and is involved with the committee.
Every person who is counted represents $2,000 a year in terms of federal funding, said Ramakrishnan, director of UCR’s Social Innovation Center. Given that the Inland Empire is one of California’s fastest-growing regions, Ramakrishnan said: “We need to redouble our efforts to make sure that people get counted.”
In a report to supervisors, Riverside County staff noted that 2020 Census results will influence redistricting of supervisorial districts and the distribution of more than $76 billion in federal funds for “housing, education, transportation, employment, health care and public policy.”
San Bernardino County was contacted by Ramakrishnan’s center about participating in the committee, according to a county staff report.
“At this point, what the Complete Count Committee will do, and what tasks each member will perform, is in the realm of the center,” said David Wert, county spokesman, via email. “The Board of Supervisors agreed to involve the county in this effort because it appears to be a positive step toward ensuring a complete and accurate count of our region.”
On Jan. 29, Gary McBride, the county’s chief executive officer, plans to ask the board to approve an application to the state for money that will promote participation in the census, Wert said.
Staff Writer Sandra Emerson contributed to this report.