Columbus has joined the New York Attorney General in a lawsuit trying to block the Trump administration from using citizenship information gained from immigrants filling out the 2020 census.
Columbus has been a welcoming magnet for immigrants from around the world, but city officials said they fear the next census count will be used to punish both immigrants and the city.
Somali immigrant, business owner and American citizen Mohamud Jama said he applauds the city fighting back against the unwelcome use of the census data.
“If there is someone that is undocumented in the family and they receive a census and it asks what their citizenship is that will instill fear in them, and they won’t respond,” Jama said.
He believes the Somali community in Columbus could be between 80 to 100,000 people, and they too would like to know the actual number living here.
“We would love to know. That situation that we are all interested, but the citizenship question is the one we worry about,” said Jama.
Ramona Reyes said she helped gather census data in the Latino community during the 2010 census.
“We worked with many of the Latino leaders and other leaders here in the Columbus community, so building that trust we want to make sure that doesn’t change,” Reyes said. She is the Director of Our Lady of Guadalupe Center. She said a large number of immigrants depend on centers like hers and they do not track citizenship data when serving their needs.
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein announced the lawsuit at the Economic And Community Development Institute (ECDI) Business Innovation Center, a test kitchen for new business models. He said every president since the 80s have agreed that adding a citizenship question depresses results in the census count.
“That is troublesome because Columbus has a lot to lose when it comes to our financial ability to receive federal grants to fund important services in our community.”
Klein explained that part of the rationale for Columbus joining the lawsuit was the decades of bipartisan recognition that the federal government demanding citizenship information would lead to greatly depressed census participation in communities with large immigrant populations, potentially threatening critical federal funds and fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College.
Klein said Columbus has $100 million dollars’ worth of federal funding tied to the census numbers.