With the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census stoking fear that many immigrants will ignore the survey altogether, a group of Rhode Island leaders met privately in Central Falls Wednesday to discuss how the question may impact the country’s only trial run happening in Providence County.
The meeting was called by Central Falls Mayor James Diossa. Attendees included Congressman David Cicilline, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien and North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi as well as NAACP President James Vincent, ACLU President Steve Brown, Common Cause Rhode Island executive director John Marion and Latino Policy Institute director Gabriela Domenzain.
Attendees were tight-lipped when asked for specific details on the meeting, but Grebien confirmed the group is looking into multiple options, including strategies for educating the public about the Census and potentially asking the federal government if the trial run can be cancelled.
Grebien emphasized that no decisions were made, but said the group understands how important an accurate Census is when it comes to securing federal funds. Rhode Island is also at risk of losing one of its two U.S. House seats because its population growth is lagging behind other states.
The Census trial run currently happening in Providence County does not include a citizenship question, but state leaders have raised concerns that immigrants may avoid responding to the questions out of fear that their information could be used against them.
Kilmartin has said Rhode Island plans to join a multi-state lawsuit seeking to block the citizenship question from being added to the Census.
A citizenship question has not been included in the survey sent to all U.S. households since 1950, but it has been used on the Census’s long-form questionnaires since 1970. Census records are required to be sealed for 72 years.