Thursday, October 29, 2020

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Census heads into final weeks amid conflict

A lawsuit by the Navajo Nation and others about an early end to the Census was heard on Monday. Meanwhile, the Census plans to wind down field operations by October 31. And early end is projected to harm native and other Hard to Count populations. It’s not too late to respond to the 2020 Census!

In September the Navajo Nation joined the Gila River Indian Community and other non-profits, city and county governments in a lawsuit against the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce, arguing that an early end to the Census would harm tribal and immigrant communities.

The AP reported that the case was heard on October 5 by a panel of three judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco via a virtual hearing. The Trump Administration argued that an earlier end to the Census, which is currently set to end October 31, is needed in order to meet the deadline to report to Congress. The judges are set to make a ruling by Wednesday, October 7.

In response to the upcoming hearing, the Census Bureau issued a statement on Friday. “As a result of court orders, the October 5, 2020 target date is not operative, and data collection operations will continue through October 31, 2020. Employees should continue to work diligently and enumerate as many people as possible.”

If the lawsuit had not challenged the Trump Administration, the Census Bureau would have been forced to cut Field Operations short. Such a move leaves Hard-to-Count populations uncounted.

Hard-to-Count populations are racial and ethnic minorities, those in rural and isolated areas, persons who have distrust in the government, those in complex households, blended families, undocumented immigrants, homeless, young children, non-English speaking households and low-income households. Many households on Cheyenne River fall into this category.

An undercount would leave Cheyenne River and other remote and poor communities without proper funding for the next ten years.

Native Americans have been one of the most historically undercounted populations in the United States. This comes from the distrust that native communities often hold towards the federal government from generations of oppression by the federal government.

According to the 2010 Census, tribes were undercounted and lost out on billions of dollars for their communities. Many are dependent on the Census population count for federal and state funding. Getting an accurate count for Indian Country could help many tribes accurately fund programs for the next decade.

One of the most important questions on the Census questionnaire is Race. Native Americans are encouraged to select “American Indian” and list their federally recognized Tribe. It’s possible to list all tribes that Native respondents affiliate with. There is no limit to how many tribal affiliations can be chosen, nor do members have to choose only the tribe they are enrolled in. However one self-identifies is what they should list on their questionnaire.

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