Things That Matter

Ahead Of Supreme Court Decision, Census Bureau Quietly Seeks Citizenship Data

The Census Bureau is quietly seeking information on the legal status of millions of immigrants in the United States. According to the AP, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would share personal data about noncitizens, including their immigration status, to the Census Bureau. The pending agreement between both agencies started since as earliest as this January. While the move is unprecedented, it is legal for the DHS to share the data if “it fits with a certain set of defined exceptions.” The news comes as the Supreme Court decides next month whether the Trump administration can ask people if they are citizens on the 2020 Census.

The pending agreement would give the bureau vital information about millions of immigrants in the country including social security numbers and addresses.

The DHS data that would be given to the Census Bureau would include names, addresses, birth dates and places, Social Security numbers and registration numbers. The AP reports that the data the bureau would receive would be more accurate than the information collected by the census every 10 years.

The proposed move raises some questions as to what the Trump administration will do with the data. It’s also raised concerns among privacy and immigration activists that argue it will be misused and would increase fears among noncitizens and legal immigrants. Some say the data can be used to build a database for legal cases and the deportation of immigrants.

Jessica Collins, a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Services, told the AP that while no agreement is finalized, the information would not be used for law enforcement purposes.

“The information is protected and safeguarded under applicable laws and will not be used for adjudicative or law enforcement purposes.” Collins said.

This has all been reported in the same week a second federal judge called the proposed census citizenship question “illegal”.

In a ruling this past week, federal judge Richard Seeborg issued a court order blocking the Trump administration’s plans to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Seeborg says that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s effort to add a citizenship question “threatens the very foundation of our democratic system.” He also ruled that it was unconstitutional because it prevents the government from doing it’s job to count every person living in the U.S.

Secretary Ross made the choice last year to add the citizenship question to the census, claiming the Justice Department requested the question to improve enforcement of the federal Voting Rights Act. Critics say this is just another move to heighten voter suppression.

The proposed census question would result in a significant undercount of non-citizens especially Latinos and other communities of colors due to fears that the information would be used against them. These undercounts would also affect the accuracy of new population counts. These numbers play a role in determining how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes, including billions of dollars in federal funding, each state receives after the 2020 census.

Seeborg is the second federal judge to stike down the proposed census question after an earlier ruling in New York by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman earlier this year.

In April, the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments to determine if the 2020 Census can include a citizenship question.

The proposed census question has become a contentious issue that would mostly affect blue states where Latinos live. Also, by having the Census Bureau go around the courts to receive information from the DHS, it only adds to this controversial issue.

While the census count happens just once every 10 years, it’s an important procedure that will certainly affect federal funding and serve as the basis for huge amounts of research. While federal law strictly prohibits the Census Bureau from sharing information, many fear having a question concerning legal status won’t help with building trust.

“It’s understandable that it’s alarming,” Terri Ann Lowenthal, a consultant on census issues, told the New York Times. “Given the anti-immigration policies of the administration, people who are fearful for their security and their status would see this as another possible effort to harm them.”

The Supreme Court hearing in April will allow Secretary Ross and the Justice Department to show their case that the question is needed to better enforce voting-rights laws. The court should make it’s final decision weeks after oral arguments begin.

READ: Miami Film Festival Cancels Screening of Immigration Doc After ICE Detained The Movie’s Main Character

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Alejandro Mayorkas Is The First Latino And Immigrant To Be Named Secretary Of The Department Of Homeland Security

Things That Matter

Alejandro Mayorkas Is The First Latino And Immigrant To Be Named Secretary Of The Department Of Homeland Security

Alejandro Mayorkas is the first Latino and the first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas is Cuban-born and was one of the original architects of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Alejandro Mayorkas is the first Latino and immigrant to be confirmed as the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Secretary Mayorkas is inheriting a Trump-era DHS and is immediately getting to work to rectify issues that the Biden administration has highlighted. Two of the most pressing issues are heading up a task force to reunite migrant families who were separated by the previous administration and reviewing the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

“Remain in Mexico” is a policy that the Trump administration created and enforced that sent migrants to Mexico to await their asylum cases. The policy has been criticized both by U.S. and international politicians as a humanitarian issue.

It isn’t Mayorkas’ first time working for DHS.

Sec. Mayorkas was the deputy secretary of DHS from December 2013 – October 2016 under President Barack Obama. During that time, Mayorkas was crucial in responding to the 2013 – 14 Ebola virus epidemic and 2015 – 16 Zika virus epidemic. Mayorkas is ready to come back to the department and to bring back what he sees are the department’s mission.

“DHS bears an extraordinary weight on behalf of the American people, the weight of grave challenges seen and unseen,” Sec. Mayorkas said in a statement. “It is the greatest privilege of my life to return to the Department to lead the men and women who dedicate their talent and energy to the safety and security of our nation. I will work every day to ensure that they have the tools they need to execute their missions with honor and integrity. The mission of the Department of Homeland Security is to safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values. The United States is a welcoming and empathetic nation, one that finds strength in its diversity. I pledge to defend and secure our country without sacrificing these American values.”

Mayorkas is no stranger to working on America’s immigration system.

Mayorkas is one of the original architects of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which is at stake because of the previous administration. The Biden administration has made a promise to preserve DACA and to create a pathway to citizenship to the 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S.

President Biden has introduced legislation to reform the current immigration system. The legislation has a timeframe for all undocumented people in the U.S. to become citizens if they follow certains steps and meet certain criteria.

While Mayorkas got bipartisan support in the Senate confirmation, some Republicans did not like his work in immigration. Sen. Marco Rubio, a fellow Cuban, voted to opposed Mayorkas.

“Not only has Mayorkas pledged to undo the sensible protections put in place by the Trump Administration that ended the dangerous policy of catch and release, but his nomination is further evidence that the Biden Administration intends to pursue a radical immigration agenda,” Sen. Rubio said in a statement.

READ: President Biden Introduces Legislation To Create Pathway To Citizenship For 11 Million Undocumented People

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

How Afromexicanos Fought For Their Place on the 2020 Mexico Census and Why It Took So Long

Things That Matter

How Afromexicanos Fought For Their Place on the 2020 Mexico Census and Why It Took So Long

Photo via SusanaHarp/Twitter

Black history month is the time of year that we shine a spotlight on the rich and unique history of people of African descent in the United States–a past that has consistently been downplayed, ignored, and in some cases, erased from our history books.

At this point, it’s evident that the Black experience is not a monolith–there is no “one way” to be Black. And yet, many people still struggle to comprehend the fact that Afro-Latinos exist.

When you hear the term Afro-Latino, you might immediately think of a few Caribbean Spanish-speaking nations with explicit ties to the African diaspora–Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, for example.

But the fact is, Black people are everywhere in Latinidad. But Afro-Latinos in non-Caribbean countries often feel overlooked, erased. And this phenomenon is especially true for afromexicanos.

In 2020, after years of fighting, Afro-Mexicans finally got recognition on the Mexican census.

The question was simple, but powerful: “Por sus costumbres y tradiciones, ¿se considera usted afromexicano, negro o afrodescendiente?” (“Based on your culture and traditions, do you consider yourself Afro-Mexican, black or Afro-descendant?”)

For Americans, especially, it can be hard to understand why the question wasn’t on the census in the first place. After all, Americans live in a country where identities are divided into strict categories: Black, white. Hispanic, non-Hispanic.

But for Mexicans, the concept of race and ethnicity is a bit more complicated. To critics, separating people into Black, white, and Indiegnous categories on the census seemed divisive. Many Mexicans identify as mestizaje–a combination of indigenous, European, and, to some extent, African roots.

But for the organizers of the #AfroCensoMx campaign–a campaign to add the negro/afromexicano to the census–the movement was more than just identity politics.

Self-identifying as Black on the Mexican census is, of course, a little bit about pride in one’s identity, but it also has more practical concerns.

The census numbers who also inform organizations about socio-economic patterns associated with being Black in Mexico–information that is invaluable. Because as of now, afromexicanos have unique experiences that are informed by their heritage, their culture, and their place in the Mexican stratum.

As Bobby Vaughn, an African-American anthropologist who specializes in Black Mexicans, put it bluntly: “Mexicans of African descent have no voice and the government makes no attempt to assess their needs, no effort to even count them.”

But for afromexicano activists, being identified as such on the Mexican census is empowering.

Lumping all Mexicans together and ignoring their (sometimes very obvious) differences can have the effect of making certain groups feel erased. Yes, Black Mexicans are simply Mexicans–that fact is not up for debate. But stories abound of afromexicanos being discriminated against because of the way they look.

An Afro-Mexican engineer named Bulmaro García from Costa Chica (a region with a significant Black population) explained to The Guardian how he is grilled by border guards and asked to sing the Mexican national anthem whenever he crosses into Guerrero.

He says the guards’ behavior is “classic discrimination due to skin color. [They think] if you’re black, you’re not Mexican.”

The differences exist, and by acknowledging it, we are more able to speak truth to power.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com