SA city staff, leaders oppose citizenship question on 2020 U.S. Census

Council members argue question could lead to misrepresentation in headcount

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SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio City Council is set to vote next week on a resolution opposing the question of citizenship on the 2020 U.S. Census.

But even if the council passes the resolution, no action would be taken by the city. The vote would just be an official opposition to the census question.

The citizenship question was a topic of discussion during a meeting Wednesday of the city's Intergovernmental Relations Committee. 

The 2020 census will mark the first time since 1950 when all people living in the United States will be asked if they're citizens. 

The U.S. Department of Justice requested that the U.S. Department of Commerce add the question to the upcoming census, which was granted. 

The inquiry is said to help protect the Voting Rights Act.

Critics, including District 4 City Councilman Rey Saldana, see the question as a political and discriminatory move. 

Saldana argues that the citizenship question could deter people from responding and ultimately impact congressional representation and federal funding in Texas and San Antonio. 

"There's a lot of implications for the amount of money we get to support our roadways, to support our housing, to support our water infrastructure. So, its important to have an accurate count," Saldana said. "And what you do by asking a citizenship question in this climate -- it's almost like putting a poison pill into the process, because nobody will want to touch the question if there is fear that 'this kind of information may hurt me.'"

Mayor Ron Nirenberg and District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran echoed those concerns. 

District 10 City Councilman Clayton Perry abstained from voting on the resolution of opposition, saying he wanted to hear more about where state and federal lawmakers stand on the issue. 

Perry said the lack of response to the U.S. Census is not a new concern or one potentially or uniquely caused by the question of citizenship. He said it's an issue that arose during previous censuses. 

"We had the same concerns back then. Are we going to get enough people responding to these forms? And yeah, we have to do a lot of work to get around and respond to those," Perry said. "So I don't see any of these issues being new. We go through this every 10 years."

The resolution to oppose the citizenship census question will go for a vote before the full City Council on June 21. 

If approved, San Antonio will be added to a list of cities opposing the question. 

Lawsuits have been filed by numerous advocacy and civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, against the U.S Department of Commerce to prevent the question from being asked.

Planned Questions 2020 

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