Mesa Mayor John Giles spoke against the controversial citizenship question being considered for the 2020 Census during a press call Wednesday organized by the Leadership Conference Education Fund, a civil rights and research group.
“It is hard to imagine anyone that would think this is a good idea. An undercount doesn’t really serve anyone,” Giles said. “It is a poor decision to try to include this question on the census.”
Giles, a Republican, said the addition of the question is a “real threat to my city” because it will result in an undercount of residents and lead to less political representation, less funding for city services and bad data.
Giles said the police and fire departments would be the most affected by an undercount, because they are among the “biggest recipients of federal grants in our city government.”
Economic development in the growing city will suffer, too, he said.
“If we have bad data, we are going to get bad results,” Giles said. “The decisions businesses make to come to our community, that is going to be impacted.”
Giles said thousands of people in Mesa, particularly immigrant and Latino residents, are “understandably” intimidated, concerned or angry over the prospect of answering, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” in the upcoming decennial census.
“If I don’t have the proper amount of funding I need to provide emergency services, parks, and education and all the other great things that my local government provides …. It’s very important for me to be outspoken, and (I’m) doing all that I can to strive for a complete count in my city,” Giles said.
Mesa is the second largest city in the metro Phoenix area, with a population of almost 500,000. Almost 12% of Mesa’s residents are foreign-born, and 21% of its residents are Latino.
Latino, black and Native American populations have been undercounted in previous censuses, but a recent study shows the citizenship question could lead to the worst undercount of black and Latino people in the U.S. since 1990.
Another study shows Arizona will likely have the highest undercount of any state because a high rate of Hispanic residents, who account for 31% of the state’s population, have skipped the citizenship question in other census surveys.
The Trump Administration is pushing to include the question, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” in the 2020 Census, arguing it is needed to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.
However, recently filed court documents suggest that the addition of the question has purely political aims. There are several lawsuits challenging the inclusion of the question, and the Supreme Court is expected to weigh in by the end of June.