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Phoenix city leaders pleased with ruling against citizenship census question

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Posted at 6:40 PM, Jun 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-27 22:29:39-04

PHOENIX — The decision Thursday by the U.S. Supreme Court to block the Trump administration from including a question on the 2020 census asking about immigration status was felt across the country, particularly in Phoenix.

Last year, the city joined a number of others in a legal effort to block the Trump administration from adding the citizenship question.

"While I am happy with today’s Supreme Court decision, I know this is not the last time we’ll debate this issue. Phoenix remains committed to continuing the diligent work of educating people on the importance of their voices in the census count," Mayor Kate Gallego said in a statement after the justice's decision was announced.

"We are aligning to the constitutional mandate, which is about making sure that all people living in our cities are counted; it's not specific to citizen or non citizen," said Albert Santana, 2020 Census Director for the City of Phoenix.

In the 2010 Census, Maricopa County was 2nd in the country for the highest undercounting of Latino children, with the self-response rate of 75 percent. Increasing that number, and thus getting a more accurate representation of who lives in the city, county, and state, made it a priority for Phoenix to push to remove anything that could depress Latino response rates, such as a question about citizenship.

"Phoenix joined with many other cities and states to fight against the inclusion of a citizenship question on the census not only because of its detrimental impact on funding, but because it would alienate an entire section of the population," Gallego said

"I can say with all sincerity that the census and the census account being accurate Is a lifeline for all of our city's services," Santana said.

For Arizona, approximately $20 billion in yearly funding comes to the state from dozens of federal programs whose information is based on data provided by the census. Of that money, $866 million goes to Phoenix.

"Everything from transportation, roads sidewalk, public safety, Head Start, senior services, library, after school programs, when you roll up it's about the quality of life," Santana said of the services which are funded in part by federal money based off the census.

Further complicating Arizona's 2010 census was that SB 1070 had just gone into effect.

"SB 1070 obviously created some real fear in the Latino community back then," Santana said.

City leaders hope history does not repeat itself again.

"We only get one shot at this every ten years, so we have to make sure we do everything we can as an entire community this is much bigger than the City of Phoenix. It's about the City of Phoenix in partnership with the entire community," Santana said.

Starting in September, you will begin to see billboards, bus wraps, television and radio public service announcements and message boards throughout valley cities that promote the participation in the census.