Emil Guillermo: Federal judge stops administration's Census speed-up–now get counted; plus Asian Americans on Breonna Taylor

Image for Emil Guillermo: Federal judge stops administration's Census speed-up–now get counted;  plus Asian Americans on Breonna Taylor

Thanks to Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District in California, you may have more time to get counted in the 2020 Census, if you haven’t done so already.

On Friday, Judge Koh issued a preliminary injunction that bars the Trump administration from accelerating the Census deadlines.

The order prevents the Census count from ending early on Sept. 30 and allow data collection to continue until Oct. 31. The court also stopped the Census Bureau from delivering apportionment data on Dec. 31.

Given the pandemic, natural disasters like the California wildfires, and a Census workforce that was just 38 percent of what it had been in years past, accelerating the Census deadlines made no sense at all.

The fear of an undercount was just too real.

The court’s opinion cites Associate Field Director for field operations Timothy Olson, who said this in an email thread on July 27 of this year:

“We need to sound the alarm to the realities of the ground—people are afraid to work for us and it is reflected in the number of enumerators working in the (Area Census Offices). And this means it is ludicrous to think we can complete 100 percent of the nation’s data collection earlier than 10/31 and any thinking person who would believe we can deliver apportionment by 12/31 has either a mental deficiency or a political motivation.”

If I were on that thread, I would say both, considering how the Trump administration has been casting doubt and dissension about the Census at every turn. There never seemed to be a desire to get a true count of the population of the New America, with its more diverse hues that would make a white supremacist cry.

From the citizenship question, which spread fear in immigrant communities, to the Trump memo expressing a desire to not have “illegal aliens” participate, the administration has done all it could to make sure the Census would be anything but smooth, let alone accurate.

I started hearing about it from field offices around the final push in the field count in August.

The number of Asian Americans is somewhere north of 23 million in the U.S., according to the latest Census numbers.

But when the official 2020 Census results are unveiled, will all of us be counted?

If you haven’t done so yet, go to right now.

Get counted now. Or else.

Asian Americans, we have an existential crisis. We could be the most undercounted group in the 2020 Census.

Census insiders weren’t counting on an extension and were already resigned to an imperfect count.

Now we have a little more time. Get counted.

“I’m not getting counted, Emil. I’m undocumented,” you say.

Yes. I know.

The citizenship question debate did not help. Enumerators were telling me that people in their homes really believed the Census was an arm of Donald Trump’s ICE.

Forget that. Earlier, the Supreme Court affirmed there will be no citizenship question. The Census isn’t out to deport to you.

It was just another monkey wrench thrown in by the Trump administration to create even more distrust and division.

Rest assured, the count has nothing to do with citizenship. It’s not about having papers. It’s just about who is living in this country—for whatever reason—for at least six months out of the year.

It’s all about counting the people of the U.S., not citizens.

All the people. We the people. (Just like it says in the Constitution.) You’re one of them. Now get counted.

Even the Philippine Consul General Henry Bensurto, Jr., recently reached out to the broad Filipino American community—especially his Filipino nationals working at the consulate. “It’s not about the brown (Philippine) passport or the blue (U.S.) passport,” Bensurto said.

If you’re living in the U.S. the majority of the year, get counted.

Money is at stake. Resources. Funds for your community and region. Funds for your particular ethnic group. And, of course, the Census is the basis for drawing new political districts.

If you’re in Philadelphia and don’t mark “FILIPINO” if you’re Filipino, then no one will know there are any Flips in Philly.

They’ll only know if you mark it down. And if you don’t, you’ll fall through a crack bigger than the one on the Liberty Bell.

Every ten years, the Census is done. Over time, the form has become easier to fill out. It takes less than five minutes to fill it out online.

I had it sitting on my pile of unopened mail for weeks. I even had two enumerators knock on my door.

Finally, I stopped playing hard to get and just filled it out online. Another set of Guillermos present and accounted for.

Now how about the rest of you?

Census insiders tell me the problem isn’t a procrastinator like me who has filled out the form and participated in the Census for decades. They know where I am in the data trove of 350 million Americans somewhere.

The question is what about the new people since 2010. For Asian Americans that means the Nepalese, the Burmese, and other fast-growing groups in our national community.

Where are they?

Covid makes it even harder to find certain people. Many have been forced to move because of Covid economic distress. Some people move in with family. The multigenerational households. Or they move in with friends in unconventional housing situations where there are people of mixed status.

Some documented. Some undocumented. Add in the fear factor, and people remain uncounted.

That’s why some I talked to at the Census Bureau worry that Asian Americans will be the most undercounted group.

Sign up in the final days. Time’s running out. Don’t fear the Census.

Fear what will happen to our community if you don’t fill out that form.

It’s easier than voting. And the administration thought it was easier to muck up. But then Judge Koh stepped in and saved the day to make sure the Census had a shot to be as accurate as possible. The government will likely appeal this ruling, creating more confusion. And wouldn’t that be just like 2020.

But for now, there’s time. The census matters because you do.

Don’t be invisible. Be counted.

Everyone wants data these days. So where do Asian Americans stand on Breonna Taylor and BLM?

You won’t see any national numbers in any mainstream polls that recognize our sentiments.

But it may surprise you that when it comes to support for civil rights for Blacks, Asian Americans are incredibly woke.

When asked if “the government should do more to give Blacks equal rights with Whites,” the vast majority, 63 percent of Asian Americans, agreed strongly to somewhat strongly, according to the 2020 Asian American Voter Survey.

And when asked if “Local government should shift spending from law enforcement to programs,” again the vast majority, 64 percent agreed.

The AAVS survey was a national phone survey taken in several Asian languages from July to September of this year.

You may not see many Asian Americans on the streets in Louisville, but the survey numbers imply Asian Americans would be in solidarity with justice for Breonna Taylor.

Police come barging into an apartment without identifying themselves. Taylor’s boyfriend shoots in self-defense through a door, as is his right given his perception of intruders entering his home. The police shoot back wildly, killing Taylor who is in bed. For all that, the grand jury comes back with a paltry set of charges: three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment against only one of the three officers involved. And the charges are all related to endangering Taylor’s white neighbors, not for killing Breonna Taylor.

Where is justice for Breonna?

The poll numbers show Asian Americans are in coalition with Blacks in the fight against discrimination. We too know how that feels. And we know we are stronger when we stand together.

But exactly how many of us are there? By the official count, not many, especially if we fail to answer the Census.

Image by AALDEF

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.

Read Emil's full bio →