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Long Island

LI immigrant advocates see 'small victory' in court decision on census citizenship question

Patrick Young speaks Thursday as Long Island immigrant

Patrick Young speaks Thursday as Long Island immigrant advocates celebrated the decision by the Supreme Court to block, for now, the Trump administration from asking respondents if they are citizens in the 2020 census. Photo Credit: Newsday/Chau Lam

Long Island immigrant advocates on Thursday celebrated the decision by the Supreme Court to block, for now, the Trump administration from asking respondents if they are citizens in the 2020 census.

“This is a small victory, but I use the word victory because in the times in which we are living, in which there are assaults after assaults on our neighbors, every win, every moment in which humanity is reaffirmed, must be recognized and must be called a victory,” said Rebecca Sanin, chief executive of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, a nonprofit that aids the disadvantaged.

Sanin and leaders of more than half a dozen groups, which oppose the Trump administration’s plan to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census, gathered at a hastily called news conference in Melville, hours after the court put the question on hold, to savor the win that they acknowledge could be short-lived.

The Trump administration, Sanin said, could try to get the question put back on the census.

 For the first time since 1950, the Census Bureau wants to ask every U.S. household about the citizenship status of family members.

The advocates and others said immigrants would refuse to participate in the census if they are asked about citizenship status of family members, leading to an undercount of millions of people living the United States. That, they say, could affect how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal money are distributed and could depress Democratic representation.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in a 5-4 decision, said the Trump administration’s explanation for adding the citizenship question “appears to have been contrived.” The court sent the case back to the lower court.

"We’re extremely happy with the decision. We think it is an important victory because Justice Roberts and the other Justices in the majority saw behind of pretext of the Trump administration, which claims that this question was on the census in order to ensure the accuracy and the protections of the Voting Rights Act. It was not,” said Patrick Young, downstate advocacy director for the New York Immigration Coalition.

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