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Federal Lawmakers From Illinois Say More Resources Needed For Robust Census Count

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Sen. Dick Durbin, second from right, talks about the importance of funding the census on Monday, flanked by Congressmen Raja Krisnamoorthi, Mike Quigley and Bobby Rush.

Esther Yoon-Ji Kang

A group of Democratic lawmakers from Illinois on Monday called for more federal resources to ensure a robust census count in the state. They also accused the Trump administration of deliberately trying to undermine next year’s census.

“We have an administration that obviously is not excited about the idea of taking the census and is trying to find ways to discourage people from answering the questions,” Sen. Dick Durbin said Monday morning at the downtown Chicago office of Forefront, a group leading census outreach efforts in Illinois. He was joined by U.S. Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Mike Quigley and Bobby Rush.

Durbin said that he and the other lawmakers sent a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau on Aug. 12 asking for more offices and personnel for the state’s “hard to count” communities.

Quigley said that after failing to add a citizenship question to next year’s census questionnaire, the Trump administration is now planning to shrink federal dollars dedicated to the headcount.

“This… will be second effort by this administration to undercount and use the census as a weapon — we can’t tolerate it,” Quigley said. “It is fundamental to our democracy that we fund the census appropriately and count everyone.”

Quigley, a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, said federal funding for next year’s headcount — “the most difficult and most expensive census in American history” — should be watched closely.

“This is a cynical administration,” Quigley said. “We have seen multiple instances in which they have simply not spent money that was allocated and appropriated.”

Should the U.S. Census Bureau not receive the funds it needs, the lawmakers said they will partner with the state and nonprofit partners to get the word out about the census and enumerate “hard-to-count” communities such as immigrants, minorities and rural residents.

Rush said that, in his district, he intends to engage community-based organizations and clergy to emphasize the importance of the census.

Krishnamoorthi encouraged coalition building among ethnic groups to ensure a full count, adding that, in his district, the Asian American and Latino communities have come together in reaching “hard-to-count” populations.

“I just urge that to happen all over Illinois because when we leverage each other’s resources, we can go further in the count,” Krishnamoorthi said.

Esther Yoon-Ji Kang is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her on Twitter @estheryjkang.

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