Would U.S. Citizenship Question Impact Census Participation in Erie?
You've seen the stories on Erie News Now, images of larges groups of new Americans taking the oath of citizenship.
According to Erie Mayor Joe Schember's administration, Erie has added over 2,274 new citizens since 2013.
But would the newest arrivals be afraid to answer the question, "Are you a U.S. Citizen" if it was on the 2020 Census form?
Immigrant and Refugee Liaison for the City of Erie Niken Astari Carpenter believes they may be, depending on the circumstances that they have come from and whether census taking is unfamiliar in their country. "People tend to be afraid to answer especially when they're refugee and immigrant," Astari Carpenter said. "They're probably not used to having that in their home country...imagine people coming from the war zone, or people who have a distrust of the government," she added.
At the Multicultural Community Resource Center, where they prepare immigrants to become citizens, counselors we spoke with don't believe the question would have a chilling effect on most of the clients they work with. Anna Mashika, a Ukrainian immigrant herself who has been a counselor for over a years said, "Most of the clients who we see, they are documented, they have green cards, they have work authorizations, so for them it doesn't matter if they are citizens or not, they are legally here so they won't be afraid, that's my belief."
It was after the 2010 census that the Erie population dipped below 100,000. Census bureau estimates now place it at 96,471. For years city officials have wanted to see that number climb back to a count for the city of over 100 thousand people, so they say participation in the 2020 census regardless of what questions are on the form is important.
According to Astari Carpenter, "For example if you don't reach 100,000 people in the population, you might not get grants you might not be qualified to get those grants."
Carpenter believes the key to getting a full and accurate count, will be education people on why they need to fill out the census, which will be done online or with an app this time around. "We need to make them aware that this is something that we do here in America, that we count people and it will help the city getting federal grants, because you know it's related to the numbers."
That education effort is something that the Erie County Complete Count Committee is already working on.
2020 Census officials are continuing to fill hundreds of census related jobs right here in northwestern Pennsylvania. One application allows people to be considered for many positions. You can apply for jobs with flexible hours and training by clicking here.