Commentary, Defending Democracy

Editorials agree: Census question on citizenship is a big mistake

There were two fine op-ed in the Raleigh area over the weekend on the controversial Trump administration plan to mar the 2020 Census with an inappropriate question on citizenship.

Here’s columnist Ned Barnett of Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“A citizenship question will drive down the responses not only from undocumented immigrants afraid of deportation, but also the responses from native-born Americans and naturalized citizens who are living in immigrant communities. They’ll be wary of disclosing the presence of a non-citizen in their household at a time when federal officers are more aggressively arresting people who are in the U.S. illegally.

The risk from undercounting immigrants is high in North Carolina, said Rebecca Tippett, a demographer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She noted that 414,000 children in the state have at least one parent who is an immigrant. Undercounting many of those children could lead to the underfunding of schools. Meanwhile, missing anyone — child or adult — results in a loss of $988 per person in federal funding, she said.

Conservative Republicans welcome this filtering. An undercount of undocumented immigrants, their citizen children and other citizen relatives will help Republicans when legislative redistricting occurs after the 2020 Census.”

And here’s Rebecca Tippett, Director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Population Center on WRAL.com:

“The concern about the newly added question is not related to its content. We have a long history of asking Americans about their citizenship status on the census and other surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.  The concern is the addition of this question without the standard rigor and vetting process the bureau typically takes for adding new census questions.  Without this research, we do not understand how it will impact response rates, accuracy, and overall costs.

The census is one of the most important activities of our government. It is the foundation of our representative democracy.  Every decade, the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are divided among the states based on their total population in the most recent census.  The census also determines the allocation of more than half a trillion dollars of federal funds, including more than $16 billion annually to North Carolina….

Non-response in 2020 may be even higher, for many reasons. The U.S. population is larger and harder to count than ever before.  Overall response rates to statistical surveys have been declining steadily for the past few decades and Americans are increasingly distrustful of government data collection efforts.  If the newly added question increases non-response among immigrant communities as some worry, this could have far-reaching impacts on North Carolina.

Nearly 800,000 immigrants were living in North Carolina in 2016, representing 8 percent of the total population, with high concentrations in both urban and rural communities. Higher non-response and a greater undercount of the immigrant population could exacerbate the undercount of children in North Carolina in 2020.”

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

New Elections, Ethics board met for first time with minimal disagreement

The full State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement got right to business Tuesday, appointing all 100 four-member county boards of elections and approving a petition to officially recognize the North Carolina Green Party.

It’s the first time the board has met with all nine newly-appointed members, though it was conducted via teleconference. There was only one disagreement along party lines at this meeting, and it involved the appointment of the Cleveland County Board of Elections.

The Board approved the first and second choice recommendations from the state Republican and Democratic parties for all county boards of elections, except in Cleveland, Halifax and Robeson. It was an 8-1 vote with John Lewis, a Republican board member, voting against it because he thought all counties should be included.

Vice Chairman Joshua Malcolm put forth a motion in Cleveland County to appoint Republicans’ second and third choices, which meant their top, experienced pick, Joseph “Wayne” King, would no longer serve.

Malcolm described it as a “judgement call” and said there were some concerns about how elections had been previously carried out in Cleveland County.

Stacy Eggers, a Republican board member, said it was a break from tradition. Lewis agreed and said it was a blatant partisan move and that the board should own up to that to be transparent.

Damon Circosta, the unaffiliated ninth member who was appointed to the board last week, tried to stay neutral and propose an amendment to also appoint the Democrats’ second and third choices, but Malcolm rejected it. Circosta ultimately voted with the Democratic board members in a 5-4 approval to not appoint King.

The county board members who were appointed Tuesday will serve until at least June 25, 2019 (full list below this post).

In other business, the board voted unanimously to recognize the Green Party as an official political party in North Carolina.

Recognition of the Green Party means voters will have another choice of party affiliation when registering to vote, according to a news release from the agency. Voters may register with the Democratic, Green, Libertarian or Republican parties, or they can register as unaffiliated.

It also means that Green Party candidates, chosen by convention in 2018, will appear on ballots in this year’s Nov. 6 general election.

The Board is updating and will distribute new voter registration forms that include the Green Party option. Until then, voters can register with the Green Party by checking the “Other” box and writing “Green” on the line in “Political Party Affiliation” section of the voter registration application.

The board also appointed panels to hear candidate challenges in six multi-county General Assembly districts. They are as follows (chair in bold):

  • House District 22: Bobby Ludlum, R-Bladen, chair; G.H. Wilson, D-Sampson; and Horace Bass, D-Sampson
  • House District 67: Karmen Mock, R-Stanly; Ronald Wayne Burris Jr., D-Stanly, chair; David Black, R-Cabarrus
  • Senate District 1: Johnny Sessoms III, D-Hertford; Alice Malesky, R-Currituck; William M. Sawyer, D-Camden; Donna Elms, R-Dare, chair; Alice Mackey, D-Hyde
  • Senate District 11: John Shallcross, R-Johnston, chair; Gordon C. Woodruff, D-Johnston; Kelly Shore, D-Nash
  • Senate District 21: Jeff Long, R-Cumberland; Harvey Wright Raynor III, D-Cumberland, chair; Robert Vaughn, R-Hoke
  • Senate District 34: Alan G. Carpenter, D-Iredell, chair; Paul Mills, R-Iredell; Claude Wiseman, R-Yadkin

See below for a full list of county boards of elections appointees:

CBE Appointments (Final) 03-27-2018 (3) by NC Policy Watch on Scribd

Commentary, Defending Democracy, News

Civil rights, immigrant advocacy groups condemn new Census question on citizenship; California sues

A wide array of civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups are loudly condemning the Trump administration’s plan to include a new question in the 2020 Census about citizenship. This is from the good people at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

“In no uncertain terms, we condemn Secretary Ross’s decision to incorporate an 11th hour citizenship question into the 2020 Census,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “This is a clear attempt to politicize the process by discouraging minority communities and immigrant communities from participating in the count. This decision comes at a time when we have seen xenophobic and anti-immigrant policy positions from this administration. This is an arbitrary and untested decision that all but guarantees that the Census will not produce a full and accurate count of the population as the constitution requires.”

Clarke continued, “while Secretary Ross claims that the citizenship question will help with enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the reality is that the Justice Department has proven hostile to safeguarding minority voting rights. Enforcement of the Voting Rights Act has come to a grinding halt. Clearly, this is mere pretext to mask the discriminatory motives underlying this move.”

Advocates at the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) put it this way:

“The ramifications of adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census is extremely anti-immigrant and intended to deter millions of immigrants from participating for fear of being targeted by this administration. If there is any question of just how radical this effort is, consider that every census since the first enumeration in 1790 included people living in the United States, citizens and non-citizens alike.

This is a direct attempt to undermine our democracy. We are going to fight this with everything we have. We will do everything within our power to ensure that this decision is reversed and that our communities continue to be counted.”

And this morning the state of California challenged the action in federal court. This is from a story at CNN.com:

Progressives, states and civil rights advocates are preparing a flurry of legal challenges to the Trump administration’s decision to add a question about citizenship to the next census, saying the move will penalize immigrants and threaten civil rights.

The late Monday move from the Commerce Department, which it said came in response a request by the Justice Department, would restore a question about citizenship that has not appeared on the census since the 1950s. The administration said the data was necessary to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The state of California immediately challenged the plan in federal court.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla trashed the move as anti-immigrant.

“The citizenship question is the latest attempt by President Trump to stoke the fires of anti-immigrant hostility,” Padilla said in a statement.

“Now, in one fell swoop, the US Commerce Department has ignored its own protocols and years of preparation in a concerted effort to suppress a fair and accurate census count from our diverse communities. The administration’s claim that it is simply seeking to protect voting rights is not only laughable, but contemptible.”

For more information on this development, check out Julianne Hing’s article at The Nation.

Defending Democracy, News

Siler City families facing eviction reach deal with chicken processing company

Lucia Salmeron and her family of four will receive $8,300 from Mountaire Farms to help with eviction. Mountaire purchased the land where Johnson’s Mobile Home Park sits and will pay that amount to each unit. (Photo by Melissa Boughton)

Mountaire Farms, a chicken processing company, will pay Siler City mobile home residents $8,300 to help with their eviction after purchasing the land their homes sit on.

There are 28 trailers in Johnson’s Mobile Home Park housing 60 adults and 50 children, most of whom would be facing homelessness without the financial assistance from Mountaire.

Mountaire, the nation’s seventh largest chicken producer, has been in negotiations with Johnson’s residents since January. They will pay $8,300 per trailer in several installments, according to a news release from the Hispanic Liaison, a Chatham County nonprofit helping the residents.

Johnson’s residents will have until July 31 to move out and they have not had to pay lot rent ($210 per month) since November. They will continue to be able to live lot rent free, which amounts to another $1,890 in savings for the families.

“From the beginning, the residents have been united and determined to advocate for fair and just compensation for their families,” said Ilana Dubester, Executive Director of the Hispanic Liaison. “They faced this crisis together with dignity and courage. The residents made all decisions collectively regarding the terms of the negotiations.”

She also applauded Mountaire Farms for listening to the families’ concerns and for “doing the right thing” by increasing compensation from the original $5,000 they were offering.

“The residents are happy with the agreement and relieved that this aspect of their situation is now resolved,” Dubester said.

Most of the Johnson’s residents own their mobile homes and have invested an average of $10,000 in purchase and repairs.

Once negotiations with Mountaire reached an impasse, Johnson’s residents pleaded with Siler City and Chatham County elected officials for help.

Siler City commissioners pledged to modify and enforce stricter rental housing codes, address housing discrimination and look for opportunities for low-income housing development. Chatham County commissioners were supportive of the families and pledged to work on affordable workforce housing.

“It takes courage for immigrant families to stand up and fight for their rights,” said Emilio Vicente, Hispanic Liaison’s adult leadership program manager. “This was the first time that these residents had spoken with the press or their elected officials.”

Jorge L., whose last name was not released, is a Johnson’s resident and father of four. He said he was very grateful to the Hispanic Liaison for helping the residents come together as a community.

“By standing united, we were able to face a powerful corporation and reach an agreement for fair compensation for our families,” he said.

The organization will continue to work with families to help them secure housing and move out by July 31.

Defending Democracy, News

Survey looks at evolving student views on First Amendment as UNC struggles with free speech questions

As the University of North Carolina continues to struggle with questions of free speech in the wake of a controversial new campus speech policy, a new study released this month takes a look at trends in student thought on free speech on America’s campuses.

The survey is the result of a partnership between Gallup, the Knight Foundation, the American Council on Education, the Charles Koch Institute and the Stanton Foundation. It updates information from a similar 2016 survey through input from 3,014 U.S. college students, including an “oversample” of 216 students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Among the results:

  • When asked to choose, students overwhelmingly (70 percent to 29 percent) favor an open environment over a positive one that puts limits on offensive speech. Democrats, Blacks and women are among the groups that are less supportive of an open environment than they were in 2016; Republicans still overwhelmingly favor an open environment (86 percent).
  • At the same time, students (64 percent) do not believe the U.S. Constitution should protect hate speech, and the majority (73 percent) support policies that restrict offensive slurs.
  • Students are more likely now (61 percent) than in 2016 (54 percent) to think the climate on their campus prevents people from speaking their mind because others might take offense.
  • Many colleges struggle when inviting controversial figures to speak on campus. Ninety percent of college students say it is never acceptable to use violence to prevent someone from speaking, but 10 percent say is sometimes acceptable. A majority (62 percent) also say shouting down speakers is never acceptable, although 37 percent believe it is sometimes acceptable.

Take the time to read the full results and info about methodology here: