Impending Census Deadline Threatens Indian Country – Non Profit News


United States Bureau of the CensusVectorisation: Mysid / Public domain

September 8, 2020; Washington Post (associated press)

The American Constitution requires a census of the population of this country every 10 years so that the principle of democratic representation can be respected. But this year, as the country battles the pandemic, the Trump administration slashed face-to-face data collection time by an entire month, virtually guaranteeing the tally will be done by Vice President James Tucker. the United States. National Census Advisory Committee, calls a potentially historic degree.

Additionally, the tally will be proportionately larger in communities of color, especially American Indians on lands governed by tribal nations. And, as mentioned, this inaccuracy affects their region’s representation in Congress and access to federal resources.

Like NPQ covered, the census deadline has been moved from October 31st September 30and despite the fact that the pandemic has interrupted normal community functions and made face-to-face collections necessary to complete a full count difficult. In Montana, only 24% of residents living on lands governed by seven tribal nations had been counted as of the first day of this month, compared to a national average of 85%. Issues of trust, connectivity, language and distance all play a part in the problem. The Census Bureau estimates that, historically, Native Americans face twice the undercount of any other group.

Additionally, a number of tribes have closed their borders in an attempt to control the spread of the virus. The Census Bureau is working hard to reach out to residents in ways that follow safety guidelines. For example, on lands governed by the Crow Nation in Montana, which is twice the size of Delaware, census officials are establishing more accessible ways to do the count, including drive-thru stations. The Navajo Nation declared September as “Navajo Nation Census Month“, since only 18.4% of households responded by themselves.

Indian country today describes the context in which the count schedule was accelerated, quoting Crow Creek Chairman Peter Lengkeek as saying that in this context pushing back the count deadline “looks like an attack”:

The Navajo Nation has implemented multiple 52-hour weekend closures and weekday night curfews for its residents during the pandemic due to rising cases. The last weekend closings have been reduced to 32 hours. As of September 2, the tribe had 9,847 positive cases and had lost 504 people to COVID-19.

Gila River is still under a shelter-in-place executive order and said an extended delay is “necessary to allow time for the count to continue while maintaining necessary safety measures during the pandemic.”

The stakes are high. “The disappearance of a single family of four in Indian Country translates to a loss of federal funding of $14,000 a year,” Tucker says.

US Indian Affairs Committee Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) launched a protest against the earlier deadline in a letter to the Census Bureau and Commerce Department in mid-August , pointing out that the pandemic had taken a heavy toll on tribal nations that experienced some of the highest death rates in the country, seriously complicating data collection:

Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian leaders have spent months coordinating with the Census Bureau to prepare their communities for the 2020 count and to meet the Bureau’s Oct. 31 deadline. Their herculean efforts to get the tally out even during a pandemic should not be ignored or cut short. Failure to obtain a complete and accurate count of these community populations will have devastating long-term effects, from redistricting data to federal funding to representation in Congress. A fair and accurate census is essential to the continued and future prosperity of Indigenous communities.

[…]

We urge you to honor the previously announced 2020 Census completion date of October 31, 2020, and continue operations on the amended schedule, as outlined in the April 13 Office announcement. We look forward to working with you to fulfill the federal government’s constitutional obligation to provide a fair and accurate count for Indian Country and all Indigenous peoples of the United States.

Other signatories include Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jon Tester (D-MT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Brian Schatz (D -HI ), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Angus King (I-ME), Mazie Hirono (D- HI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL.) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) ) .

A number of lawsuits seeking to extend the counting period have been filed across the country, including one, reports Indian country today, filed by the Navajo Nation and Gila River Indian Community in Arizona, joined by the National Urban League, League of Women Voters, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Harris County in Texas, King County in the State of Washington, the city of Los Angeles, the city of Salinas in California, the city of San Jose in California, the NAACP and the city of Chicago.

The 68 pages complaint well worth reading. In its first clause, plaintiffs allege that the rushed count amounts to an “unconstitutional and unlawful” attack on the census that “forces the Census Bureau to compress eight and a half months of vital data collection and processing into four and a half months “. months and a half, against the judgment of Bureau staff and in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic. The plaintiffs further allege that the rushed count is intended to remove “the political power of communities of color by excluding undocumented people from the final distribution count.” -Ruth McCambridge

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