In Miami-Dade, scared immigrants may not answer the census. That could be costly

As the Trump administration prepares to insert a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, Miami-Dade is urging all residents not to let fear of a government survey stop them from participating

“One of the messages we’re going to be driving now for the next year and a half is the importance of being counted,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, chairman of a county task force promoting census participation. “If you care about traffic, if you care about healthcare, education. If you care about housing, it is important we communicate to every segment of our population and allow them to be counted.”

Washington uses census demographic information in calculations for federal spending and aid, as well as deciding when an area is large enough to require more representation in Congress.

Miami’s foreign-born population is considered at risk for being undercounted, largely over fears about confidential census answers leading to immigration problems or deportation. In 2017, the Census Bureau released research showing immigrants in the U.S. legally and illegally resisted giving complete answers to field staff for the agency.

Miami-Dade’s census campaign is focusing on participation, whether or not the citizenship question makes it on the final forms. The county is touting the confidentiality of census responses and highlighting the financial consequences of an undercount in terms of lost federal dollars.

“In order to receive what this community deserves,” Commissioner Rebeca Sosa said at a morning press conference at the county’s downtown Miami library branch, “everybody needs to be counted.”

While some of the more limited census studies do ask for citizenship information, the comprehensive survey targeting every American household that’s conducted every 10 years has not asked about citizenship since 1950.

States and cities are suing the Trump administration to block inclusion of the question, and Miami-Dade’s County Commission voted last month to consider legal action as well in a resolution opposing the White House’s effort.

“Miami-Dade County has long been home to a large number of immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean, among other places, and will likely face an undercount of its population if the citizenship question is included on the 2020 Census,” read the resolution, which passed 11-1, with only Commissioner Joe Martinez opposing it.

The case is before the Supreme Court. On Twitter Monday, Trump said the census would be “meaningless” without “the all important Citizenship Question.” He blamed opposition on “the Radical Left Democrats.”

Bovo and Rebeca Sosa, two Republicans on the Democrat-majority County Commission, a nonpartisan board, both voted for the resolution opposing the citizenship question. Carlos Gimenez, Miami-Dade’s Republican mayor, also said he wants the census to go forward without asking about citizenship.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” Gimenez said. “There are plenty of other ways the federal government can get that information.”