RI Elected Officials, Community Groups Oppose Citizenship Question In 2020 U.S. Census

Apr 2, 2018

Central Falls Mayor James Diossa speaks against including a citizenship question on the U.S. Census in 2020.
Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

A group of elected officials and leaders of community groups gathered Monday at Central Falls to oppose plans for including a citizenship question in the U.S. Census in 2020.

The mayors of Central Falls, Pawtucket and Providence, along with Gov. Gina Raimondo and Lt. Gov. Dan McKee said that including the question will discourage participation by some Rhode Island residents.

“If a person is living here, they need to be counted," Diossa said during a City Hall news conference. "This isn’t about immigration policy or partisan politics. We are here because the federal government has taken steps that make it harder for the upcoming Census to get an accurate count for all people in the United States.”

The Trump administration has advocated including a citizenship question in the Census, for the first time since 1950, as a way to help enforcement of the voting rights act.

But the Democrat elected officials speaking at the news conference said there's no legitimate reason to include the citizenship question. They expressed concern that a Census under-court would lead to fewer federal resources for Rhode Island and could increase the likelihood that the state will lose a congressional seat.

“We’re all paying our tax dollars to the federal government, and we want as much of it back as possible," said Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. "A full Census count will ensure that we get as much of those federal resources back. So this is not a, you know, citizens vs. non-citizens, this is, we are all in this together.” 

The groups opposing the citizenship question include Common Cause of RI, the state chapter of the ACLU, the Providence chapter of the NAACP, and the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University.

The only test of the U.S. Census, ahead of 2020, is taking place now in Providence County.

While the test does not include the citizenship question, officials criticized the federal government for not sharing resources to help raise awareness about the current Census test.