King County gears up to boost census despite citizenship question

SEATTLE — It has been traditionally more difficult to get minority and immigrant communities to participate in the census. Advocates say adding a question about citizenship makes it worse.

That's because President Trump's harsh words on immigration are making immigrant families wary of talking to the government.

Cherry Cayabyab worked on the 2000 and 2010 census and understands why the citizenship question drives people away.

“There are concerns about trust on whether or not their information and their names, personal information will be disclosed and or information that they provide will be used against them,” she said.

This year King County is bringing community groups together to encourage participation in the census despite the atmosphere of mistrust.

“It is critical for very straightforward things like the receipt of federal and state dollars but also the allocation of members of Congress to the state,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine about the census.

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Constantine has mobilized a community effort to ensure a complete census count in 2020. He recruited former Gov. Gary Locke to help lead it. Locke oversaw the 2010 census as commerce secretary for President Obama.

“The census has not used the citizenship question since 1950,” Locke said

The Constitution requires a count of everyone, not just citizens. So, Locke sees a political motive aimed at multicultural regions.

“It's really to reduce the number of representatives in Congress, in certain communities, especially urban areas, are entitled to,” he said.

But the Trump administration has said the citizenship question is necessary for the Justice Department to protect voter rights.

Seattle and Washington state are among the many places that are suing to have the citizenship question removed. The case is scheduled July 3 in New York City.