In Lan­g­ley Park,

Ad­vo­cates for im­mi­grants say a cit­i­zen­ship ques­tion will spook those al­ready fear­ful of de­por­ta­tion

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY MARIA SACCHETTI

a Prince Ge­orge’s County en­clave with a high per­cent­age of nonci­t­i­zen res­i­dents, the prospect of a cit­i­zen­ship ques­tion on the 2020 Cen­sus has many vow­ing not to take part.

When the 2020 Cen­sus lands in Lan­g­ley Park and asks res­i­dents whether they are U.S. cit­i­zens, the re­sponse is likely to be no — if res­i­dents re­spond at all. “I wouldn’t an­swer it,” said a 42-yearold un­doc­u­mented con­struc­tion worker from Guatemala.

“No­body is go­ing to do this. No­body,” said a jewelry sales­woman from El Sal­vador.

In this Mary­land en­clave less than 10 miles from the White House, 58 per­cent of res­i­dents are not U.S. cit­i­zens, the high­est per­cent­age of any city, town or

Yolanda Brew­ster, 65, a store owner at La Union Mall in Lan­g­ley Park, is a U.S. cit­i­zen from Guatemala and a Repub­li­can who sup­ports hav­ing a cit­i­zen­ship ques­tion on the cen­sus.

un­in­cor­po­rated com­mu­nity in the United States. The num­ber of nonci­t­i­zen adults is even higher: Nearly 80 per­cent of the men and two-thirds of the women in Lan­g­ley Park can­not vote for pres­i­dent, qual­ify for fed­eral fi­nan­cial aid or ap­ply for a U.S. gov­ern­ment job.

Many are un­doc­u­mented and afraid of fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents, com­mu­nity lead­ers say. Now, they are also afraid of the cen­sus.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced last month that it will add a cit­i­zen­ship ques­tion to the de­cen­nial cen­sus for the first time since 1950, a change that fed­eral of­fi­cials say will re­sult in a more

“I think that a lot of peo­ple in my district will be very fear­ful. They’re al­ready fear­ful.” Prince Ge­orge’s County Coun­cil mem­ber Deni Tav­eras (D-District 2), who rep­re­sents Lan­g­ley Park

un­der­stand­ing of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion and bet­ter en­force­ment of mi­nor­ity vot­ing rights. The ques­tion will ask whether res­i­dents are U.S. cit­i­zens, not whether they are in the coun­try legally.

The de­ci­sion to in­clude the ques­tion has gen­er­ated alarm in eth­nic me­dia and in states where many nonci­t­i­zens live. Even though it is il­le­gal for the Cen­sus Bureau to share in­for­ma­tion with other fed­eral agen­cies, im­mi­grants’ ad­vo­cates say some fear the ques­tion — com­ing as Pres­i­dent Trump has vowed to ag­gres­sively en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws — will be used to find and de­port them. If those im­mi­grants there­fore refuse to fill out the cen­sus sur­vey, it could trig­ger an un­der­count that would de­prive ju­ris­dic­tions — in­clud­ing those that voted for Trump — of a share of po­lit­i­cal power and fed­eral funds for roads, bridges and schools.

“I think that a lot of peo­ple in my district will be very fear­ful. They’re al­ready fear­ful,” said Prince Ge­orge’s County Coun­cil mem­ber Deni Tav­eras (D-District 2), who rep­re­sents Lan­g­ley Park. “We’re go­ing to be suf­fer­ing for it.”

Gus­tavo Tor­res, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Casa, a non­profit group op­er­at­ing in Mary­land, Vir­ginia and Penn­syl­va­nia, said im­mi­grants and their ad­vo­cates are wor­ried that fed­eral of­fi­cials “are go­ing to use [cen­sus] in­for­ma­tion to at­tack and to de­stroy our fam­i­lies.”

The cen­sus is sent to ev­ery house­hold once a decade to pro­vide Congress with an of­fi­cial count of ev­ery U.S. res­i­dent. It is sup­posed to be a more thor­ough mea­sure than the Cen­sus Bureau’s an­nual Amer­i­can Com­mu­nity Sur­vey, which is based on a pop­u­la­tion sam­ple of more than 3 mil­lion house­holds a year. About 22 mil­lion nonci­t­i­zens are liv­ing in the United States, ac­cord­ing to the com­mu­nity sur­vey, which asks about cit­i­zen­ship. Re­searchers es­ti­mate that about half — 11 mil­lion — are un­doc­u­mented.

Cen­sus data is used to ap­por­tion seats in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, draw state leg­isla­tive dis­tricts and de­lin­eate school dis­tricts. It is also the base­line used to di­vide up some $675 bil­lion in fed­eral fund­ing for ed­u­ca­tion, in­fras­truc­ture, health care and other ser­vices.

By the time the 2020 Cen­sus launches, Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment should be at full throt­tle. Tem­po­rary pro­tec­tions for Sal­vado­rans and Haitians are sched­uled to end in 2019 and — de­pend­ing on court bat­tles — could also be phased out for 690,000 young im­mi­grants, known as “dreamers,” brought to this coun­try as chil­dren.

A spokes­woman for Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott (R) — whose state in­cludes nearly 3 mil­lion nonci­t­i­zens, sec­ond only to Cal­i­for­nia — said a cit­i­zen­ship ques­tion would pro­vide “greater trans­parency and in­for­ma­tion.”

“Rather than stok­ing fear, the Gover­nor be­lieves crit­ics should spend their time urg­ing res­i­dents to re­spond to the cen­sus,” spokes­woman Ciara Matthews said in a state­ment.

But other elected lead­ers, in- clud­ing more than 160 may­ors, some of them Repub­li­cans, have con­demned the idea.

Mary­land, Vir­ginia, the District and more than a dozen cities and states have filed a fed­eral law­suit to block the cit­i­zen­ship ques­tion. Last week, res­i­dents of Ari­zona and Mary­land, in­clud­ing Lan­g­ley Park, filed a law­suit call­ing in­clu­sion of the ques­tion a “reck­less” move.

Nonci­t­i­zens, once con­cen­trated in Cal­i­for­nia and a few other states, to­day are scat­tered widely across the blue and red parts of the coun­try.

Ge­or­gia has 600,000 nonci­t­i­zens, up from just 42,000 in 1980, ac­cord­ing to the Pew Reac­cu­rate search Cen­ter. Ten­nessee has more than 200,000. In Ari­zona, the num­ber of nonci­t­i­zens has tripled since 1990. Now some of­fi­cials fear a cen­sus un­der­count would cost the state a con­gres­sional seat.

“If im­mi­grants are spooked,” they won’t an­swer the cen­sus, said Mesa Mayor John Giles (R). “The irony of that is re­gard­less of where you’re at on the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, this is go­ing to hurt you as well.”

Mayor Ly­dia Mi­ha­lik of Findlay, Ohio, a Repub­li­can who voted for Trump, said she hopes the ad­min­is­tra­tion will not ask about cit­i­zen­ship, be­cause of fears that it will lead to an in­ac­cu­rate count.

“From my per­spec­tive, the less amount of pol­i­tics that goes into the gath­er­ing of this data the bet­ter,” Mi­ha­lik said. “There are a lot of things the cen­sus is used for.”

Few com­mu­ni­ties have as much at stake in the cit­i­zen­ship ques­tion as Lan­g­ley Park, a densely pop­u­lated com­mu­nity of about 20,000, wedged be­tween Takoma Park and Col­lege Park, where im­mi­grants have long felt at home.

Span­ish is more com­mon than English. Shops stock farmer cheese from El Sal­vador, cold medicine from Guatemala and push-up jeans from Colom­bia. Most par­ents carry pass­ports from Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries, while most of their chil­dren are U.S.-born cit­i­zens.

But under Trump, many say they now live in fear of fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents — “la mi­gra” — and have no in­ter­est in re­mind­ing Un­cle Sam through the cen­sus that they are not cit­i­zens.

“You feel like an­i­mals in the woods. You don’t know when they’re go­ing to hunt for you,” said the 42-year-old con­struc­tion worker from Guatemala, who gave his name only as Wil­liam. He and oth­ers re­fused to give their full names, be­cause they are un­doc­u­mented or have tem­po­rary le­gal sta­tus that will ex­pire in 2019.

Wil­liam filled out the cen­sus in 2010 but said he will not risk it in 2020. He re­cently moved to a dif­fer­ent apart­ment build­ing with his wife and four chil­dren — two of them cit­i­zens be­cause they were born in the United States — be­cause im­mi­gra­tion agents had ar­rested a neigh­bor in his old build­ing. Wil­liam feared they would re­turn for him.

In­side the build­ing where the fam­ily lives now, no­body has posted their names on the mail­boxes. Some neigh­bors re­fused to an­swer the door re­cently, though voices could be heard in­side.

At an apart­ment with a wel­come mat, a 29-year-old un­doc­u­mented con­struc­tion worker from Hon­duras cracked open the door. Asked whether he would fill out the cen­sus if it had a cit­i­zen­ship ques­tion, he shook his head.

“No,” said the man, who has a wife and a new baby, “not while we’re in this crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion.”

Fed­eral of­fi­cials say the cen­sus would not be used to tar­get un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, be­cause it is il­le­gal for the Cen­sus Bureau to share re­spon­dents’ an­swers with any­one, in­clud­ing Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment. Any­one who does share such in­for­ma­tion can be sen­tenced to up to five years in prison and fined up to $250,000.

But such dis­clo­sures have hap­pened be­fore, in­clud­ing dur­ing World War II, when the cen­sus was se­cretly used to find and round up thou­sands of Ja­panese Amer­i­cans and put them in in­tern­ment camps.

Re­fus­ing to an­swer the cen­sus is also il­le­gal, though cen­sus of­fi­cials say they are un­aware of any­one be­ing pros­e­cuted on those grounds. Adults can be fined up to $100 for re­fus­ing to an­swer and up to $500 for giv­ing false in­for­ma­tion.

Cen­sus enu­mer­a­tors will at­tempt to fol­low up with res­i­dents who do not fill out the 2020 forms, which for the first time may be an­swered on­line as well as through the mail.

Some im­mi­grants who are Amer­i­can cit­i­zens say the ad­di­tion of the ques­tion to the cen­sus is no big deal.

“If they’re a cit­i­zen, it won’t bother them,” said Yolanda Brew­ster, a 65-year-old nat­u­ral­ized U.S. cit­i­zen from Guatemala who voted for Trump and runs a shop at a mall in the heart of Lan­g­ley Park.

But oth­ers note that many un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants are in­el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for cit­i­zen­ship. “Most of those who don’t have pa­pers are not go­ing to an­swer it, be­cause of fear,” said Lour­des Ro­driguez, 63, a nat­u­ral­ized U.S. cit­i­zen from the Do­mini­can Repub­lic who lives in Lan­g­ley Park.

Mo­ham­mad Rafi, the 55-yearold man­ager of Tabeer restau­rant, in the same shop­ping mall as Brew­ster’s store, said he got a glimpse of how fear­ful some im­mi­grants are a few weeks ago when fed­eral agents showed up.

“They asked me, ‘Are you a U.S. cit­i­zen?’ ” he said.

He said yes, and they left. But busi­ness, he said, had been slow ever since.

Be­hind him stood wa­ter glasses hold­ing folded nap­kins. It was dinnertime, but the restau­rant was empty.

“Peo­ple are scared to come

“Re­gard­less of where you’re at on the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, this is go­ing to hurt you as well.” Mesa, Ariz., Mayor John Giles (R). Last week, res­i­dents of Ari­zona and Mary­land, in­clud­ing Lan­g­ley Park, filed a law­suit call­ing in­clu­sion of a cit­i­zen­ship ques­tion in the cen­sus a “reck­less” move.

SARAH L. VOISIN/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

PHO­TOS BY SARAH L. VOISIN/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Lour­des Ro­driguez, 63, is from the Do­mini­can Repub­lic. She lives in Lan­g­ley Park and has been a U.S. cit­i­zen for 13 years. Ro­driguez says her neigh­bors who are un­doc­u­mented will prob­a­bly skip the cen­sus rather than an­swer a ques­tion about cit­i­zen­ship.

La Union Mall, shown this month, in Lan­g­ley Park, where 58 per­cent of res­i­dents are not U.S. cit­i­zens, the high­est per­cent­age of any city, town or un­in­cor­po­rated com­mu­nity in the United States.

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