SACRAMENTO, Calif. — President Donald Trump’s directive to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted in the census has sparked several legal challenges, including a lawsuit from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. 

The U.S. Constitution requires a census count of the country every 10 years. The president’s memo aims to bar undocumented immigrants from being counted for congressional apportionment next year.

What You Need To Know

  • California is home to more than 2 million undocumented immigrants

  • President Trump has issued a directive to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted in the census

  • California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration

  • The U.S. Constitution requires a census count of the country every 10 years

Despite federal laws to protect confidentiality on information shared in the U.S. Census, getting undocumented families to fill out the questionnaire has been a struggle in states like California, which is home to more than 2 million undocumented immigrants.

Tomas Evangelista, Executive Director at Evangelista Community Relations and Co-Founder of California Dreamers, said President Trump’s efforts to block immigrants from participating has only made his job harder.

Evangelista would normally go door to door to educate people on the importance of filling out the census. However, COVID-19 has changed the way he does business.

“We switched over to phone banking, now we’re calling people and it’s much harder just because you don’t see them, you don’t know who they are,” Evangelista said.

He said this presents an even greater challenge because of the populations he works with. Evangelista’s company was contracted by the state to work in communities that are hard to count, such as rural and low-income areas where a majority of undocumented peoples live.

“There’s been a few times when I mention the census that the person on the door froze – it hasn’t happened often – but you can tell that they’re really scared thinking we’re from the federal government. And this could be ICE coming,” Evangelista added.

In many cases, he’s able to win their trust by telling them he’s also undocumented.

“When families see that it’s another immigrant speaking Spanish, it really makes them feel better about even just talking to us. Once families are educated about the importance and how it’s used and the benefit it can provide, a lot of people feel more comfortable filling it out,” Evangelista said.

He explained that the data collected in the census is important because it determines where funding is allocated for schools and community programs.

Even though President Trump tried to include a citizenship question on the census, his attempt failed, so no one is required to share their legal status on the form.

“Whenever something is announced, it sends a shockwave to immigrant communities because it shows that hey, he might be able to use this in this way, he’s pushing the limits, so maybe I shouldn’t fill it out because this could come back and hurt me down the road,” Evangelista noted. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom responded to the Trump administration by saying his latest action to exclude undocumented immigrants when determining representation in Congress is rooted in racism and xenophobia.

“It’s going to be another long court battle. It’s just disheartening,” Evangelista said.

Despite the obstacles he’s faces 2020, Evangelista said nothing will stop him from educating his neighbors on their civic duty.