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Citizenship question on Census could cost Phoenix millions of dollars

(Flickr/U.S. Department of Agriculture)

PHOENIX — The federal government’s proposal to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 U.S. Census could lead to major financial losses for Phoenix.

Former Phoenix City Councilwoman Kate Gallego said the city is projected to get $816 million in annual funding, or about $500 per person, following the Census count.

But that’s only if all Phoenix residents participate.

“We’re concerned that if this question is added, we won’t have full participation in the Census,” said Gallego, who stepped down Wednesday to run for Phoenix mayor. “People will be afraid to be counted.”

She said about 13 percent of Phoenix residents are not citizens. Some of them are lawful permanent residents, refugees and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – which protects young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation.

The Census is used to get an accurate count of a population, which is then used to allocate federal and state funds that go toward city services and programs.

In May, the Phoenix City Council voted 7-2 to approve a motion to authorize the city manager to “join an appropriate lawsuit to challenge the U.S. Census Bureau decision to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census.”

Gallego was among the councilmembers who voted in favor of the motion. She said if many of the Phoenix residents who aren’t citizens opt out from the Census, the city could lose out on essential funding.

“This is really significant funding,” she said. “We’re an incredibly quickly growing city, and we need to keep investing and maintaining our streets, our services.”

“We should get our fair share of dollars from the federal government, and we need accurate Census information to do that,” she added.

The Census will be taken on April 1, 2020.

More than a dozen cities and states across the U.S. have joined lawsuits against the federal government over the proposed citizenship question.

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