I am glad that the Supreme Court of the United States has decided to postpone Trump’s Commerce Department from adding the citizenship question and allow the lower court to reconsider the flawed, biased, and counter-productive citizenship question.
The highest mission – the only mission – of the United States Census is to ensure a complete and accurate count of its residents – not to check citizenship status. This vital information is used by government agencies, companies, researchers, and more to analyze our nation’s economic and social changes and wellbeing. Companies use Census data to predict new markets, realtors use Census data to price homes, and governments use Census numbers to create new urban development.
Inclusion of the citizenship question would not only deter immigrants, refugees, and legal permanent residents from wanting to fill out the entire form, it deters African Americans from wanting to answer as well. Also, there is a meaningful African immigrant population in St. Louis, and many families have mixed-status households with some citizens, with some on the pathway to citizenship. It would deeply hurt our urban core.
It will impact how much funding St. Louis gets for roads, schools, hospitals. Each person who doesn’t get counted will cost our state an estimated $19,500, according to Professor Andrew Reamer. We may even lose a Congressional seat. But the harm is more than financial or political. The citizenship question singles out some of our most vulnerable, and most productive, residents for disparate treatment.
As Recorder of Deeds for St. Louis, our office welcomes constituents of all ethnicities, nationalities and immigration statuses. It is our pleasure to help our neighbors apply for marriages, and get records on personal milestones like birth, death, or buying a first home. We respect and affirm all St. Louis city residents.
I encourage all St. Louisans to fill out the Census, in spite of reluctance or fear. If we are not counted, we do not count. It is the only way for us to make our voices heard and to ensure that our children’s schools get funded – it is our path to a brighter future.
Michael Butler is St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds.