Saturday, March 31, 2018

Trump fears terrorists, but more Americans are shot dead by toddlers

I remember when I was around 4 years old finding my grandfather's gun.  I remember feeling excited about it, taking it out of its case, and going to show my little sister who was about a year old at the time.  Thankfully, my grandfather caught us and took it away from me and hid it so that I never came across it again in his home.  I shudder to think of what could have happened.  And I shudder to contemplate the lives that these young people must lead who accidentally shot or killed siblings and loved ones because of their parents' negligence.  

Relatedly, check out this June 19, 2017 story titled, Guns kill nearly 1,300 US children each year, Study says, that elaborates trends more fully.

A sense of proportion is necessary.  Toddlers and home shootings and deaths are a much more serious problem than terrorists. We desperately need greater gun control in this country to save us from ourselves.

-Angela Valenzuela

Trump fears terrorists, but more Americans are shot dead by toddlers

Gary Younge | The Guardian 

Gun deaths – intentional, accidental and self-inflicted – dwarf those related to terror. The talk is of secure borders but within the US many live in a state of fear
 ‘An American is at least twice as likely to be shot dead by a toddler than killed by a terrorist.’ Photograph: Gilles Mingasson/Getty Images

Shortly before leaving America for Britain, after 12 years as a correspondent, the relative of one of my son’s friends politely declined my invitation to visit us in London.
“I don’t think I could go to Europe,” she said. “It doesn’t seem safe.”
Try as I might I could not suppress a laugh. My wife and children are African American. I am British. We were living in Chicago.
“The odds of you being shot dead here are far greater than of you being killed in a terrorist attack over there.”
When the president uses his executive powers to ban more than 200 million people from entering America, ostensibly in the interests of security, and then, in the same week, the House of Representatives relaxes background checks for gun ownership, one is compelled to question the sense of proportionality when it comes to security. Whom do they intend to keep safe? By what means? And at what price to liberty?
Let us leave aside for the moment the fact that since 9/11 not a single American has been killed in a terrorist attack by a citizen from the countries on this list. The reality is that an American is at least twice as likely to be shot dead by a toddler than killed by a terrorist. In 2014 88 Americans were shot dead, on average, every day: 58 killed themselves while 30 were murdered. In that same year 18 Americans were killed by terrorist attacks in the US. Put more starkly: more Americans were killed by firearms roughly every five hours than were killed by terrorists in an entire year. It is unlikely that scrapping a rule requiring extended background checks for gun purchases by some social security recipients suffering from mental illness will improve the situation.

(To hide behind the mantra “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is an act of fallacious sophistry. Toasters don’t make toast, people make toast. True. But toasters exist to make toast: guns exist to kill people.)
One need not downplay the importance of terrorism here. Terrorism is not only murderous. In its ability to spread anxiety and undermine democratic engagement with violence it is also deeply reactionary. Rather than galvanising people around a cause it divides them in the crudest manner possible – on the basis of fear. That’s as true when America kills innocent civilians. But the fear most Americans experience daily isn’t imported – it’s home grown. That’s true across the board, but particularly true for some minorities. Every day seven children and teens are shot dead in the US. Firearms are the biggest killer of young black people and the second biggest killer of all children, after traffic accidents. When the new US education secretary, Betsy DeVos, suggests schools might need guns to protect themselves from grizzly bears, she’s clearly not capable of gauging the real threat to American children.
While researching my book about all the young people who were killed on one random day – 23 November 2013 – every single parent of a black teenager who lost a child that day that I interviewed said they assumed this might happen to their kid. “I didn’t think it would be him,” said one mother. “I thought it would be his brother.” “You wouldn’t be doing your job as a father if you didn’t,” said another.
Doriane Miller is a primary-care physician who practises on Chicago’s South Side, where one teen was killed that day. Dr Miller noticed a significant number of young black patients arriving with psychosomatic symptoms – many also had tattoos bearing the names and dates of loved ones who had been lost to gun violence. When she tried to talk to them about it they shut down.
“There was that sense that this is the way it is in my life and in my community,” she said. “There is a learned hopelessness around this. And so you suck it up, you man up, and you move on.”
Many of the areas where these young people live, and die, look like war zones – empty lots, half-demolished houses, depleted infrastructure, militarised policing, potholed roads, boarded-up houses, abandoned churches. But more importantly, they are experienced as such. People (mostly young men) disappear – either to prison or to the grave – leaving a huge gender imbalance. Times are hard, and the informal economy is rife, meaning there are spivs everywhere making an ostentatious display of their wealth. The one major difference is that whereas wars often cement communities as people band together against a “common enemy,” in these areas the enemy is everywhere and, potentially, anyone.
These, too, are Americans. They too deserve security. Indeed it is a nonsense to talk about securing the borders from the outside world if many of those who live within those selfsame borders continue to live in a state of constant fear.
Many of those who insist that, when it comes to terror, one must balance individual rights against collective security, become curiously silent when it comes to adapting their interpretation of the right to bear arms to the issue of public safety.
In 2002 I interviewed the late Maya Angelou about her views on the 9/11 terror attacks. “Living in a state of terror was new to many white people in America,” she told me. “But black people have been living in a state of terror in this country for more than 400 years.”
If the current administration applied just half the zeal to making sure all people in the country feel included and safe as they do to making sure some outside of it feel excluded and anxious, the impact on Americans’ sense of security would be repaid exponentially.
After a judge blocked the Muslim ban over the weekend Trump said that if there was another terrorist attack America should blame him. Between me writing this article and you reading it the chances are another child will be shot dead. Whom, I wonder, should we blame for that?

Lessons from the media’s coverage of the 1996 Ebonics controversy

So glad to see Alexander Russo provide this update on the potentially positive role that Ebonics can play in our nation's classrooms only if it were better understood rather than dismissed as an effective pedagogical approach for nonstandard speaker of English that speak Ebonics, or African-American English, that has roots that derive from West Africa.  Apt quotes from within:

To its defenders, Ebonics was a legitimate program being proposed by a largely black school board and attacked by a mostly white media establishment. To its critics – including middle-class African-Americans and black celebrities like Maya Angelou – it was a mistaken idea that would set kids back rather than launching them forward.
While the student population is more diverse than it was two decades ago, classroom teachers in America are predominantly white and monolingual. This population often brings with it negative judgments about dialects – which some linguists call “dominant language ideology” – based on their own experiences and culture.

The power of Ebonics, or African-American English, as a vehicle for student achievement has gotten a raw deal in the media and public policy debates. This is because it is misunderstood and indeed, derogated from within the African American community itself, particularly among some members of the middle class who see it as objectionable rather than a wonderfully rich dialect that can and should inform the instructional process for its speakers.  

Russo provides a helpful update together with resources that you can link to below.

Angela Valenzuela

Lessons from the media’s coverage of the 1996 Ebonics controversy

02.The Grade FB Banner
A long-forgotten uproar illustrates some of the chronic failures of media outlets covering polarized, racially-charged situations. But it’s not just a historic concern. The controversy could re-emerge any time now, as schools search for better ways to serve low-income students. 

By Alexander Russo

On December 18, 1996, the Oakland (CA) school board passed a two-page resolution that highlighted the plight of African-American students in the district and — as part of a plan to improve their academic success — claimed that African-American English spoken by many students was its own language and should be used to help children learn standard classroom English.
The notion generated enormous attention and controversy at the time, the vast majority of it critical. Nearly everybody – Jesse Jackson, the New York Times editorial page, Clinton education secretary Richard Riley, Maya Angelou – all came out against what Oakland was proposing, which had been dubbed “Ebonics.”
“One school board, in one city, passed one little resolution,” writes Michael Hobbes in a 2017 HuffPost Highline piece revisiting what happened. “And the rest of the country spent the next six months freaking out about it.”
In response, the district rolled back its plans. The superintendent left soon thereafter. And districts haven’t dared to try anything similarly dramatic in the 22 years that have passed since then.
As it turns out, however, the main thrust of the Oakland proposal was overwhelmingly supported by linguists, and the approach it was recommending – using children’s home dialect to help teach standard English – had proven successful in other places in the past.
But the general public had little chance to grasp the larger picture. Traditional news coverage was eclipsed by hyperbolic op-eds and editorials. Cable news failed to provide any depth of understanding. Few in the general public would ever know that the district went ahead with its program under another name, or that several of those most opposed at the outset would later modify their positions. Even now, few know that the population of a group some call “standard English learners” goes far beyond African-American students or that a handful of districts have quietly created programs using their home dialects as a bridge around the country.
Revisiting the controversy provides an excellent opportunity to look at the strengths and weaknesses of media coverage of the Oakland proposal and its impact on subsequent efforts to address the needs of what some now call “standard English learners” in American schools.
The story is not merely a historical concern. To help meet their needs, a handful of districts and schools have quietly returned to the idea of using students’ home dialects to help them learn standard English.
The problems the Oakland school board was trying to address were serious ones. Just over half the kids in the Oakland were African-American – the largest portion of any California district. But they weren’t, as a group, being treated well in the existing education system. They received 80 percent of suspensions and made up 71 percent of kids with special education referrals. Their average grade point average was D+.
Then as now, the use of vernacular English spoken by some African-American students was corrected as “bad” in most classrooms. It was generally treated as a lower form of English that limited its speakers’ chances for academic and professional success.
The thrust of the Oakland plan was to teach standard English by contrasting it with African-American English. This approach had been shown to be successful in a pilot program in the district, as well as in a handful of other districts in the past.
In practice, the program piloted in Oakland was not nearly as radical as it might have sounded. Michael Bazeley, who was the education reporter for the Oakland Tribune at the time, visited a few classrooms where it was being used. “They very clearly were not ‘teaching’ students Black English or Ebonics,” he said. “They were acknowledging that Black English was real and using it as a bridge to standard English.”
But deep feelings of concern and guilt over the treatment of African-American children in schools is always near the surface in this country. The notion of “code-switching,” in which individuals learn to toggle back and forth between standard spoken English and another dialect, wasn’t nearly as familiar as it is today.
And, in what would prove to be extraordinarily distracting assertion, the Oakland resolution mistakenly declared that African-American English was its own language, rather than a dialect of English.
While many thought it was an effort to secure federal bilingual education funding, the claim was an unintentional error on the board’s part, according to some of those involved at the time. “They weren’t linguists,” according to Darolyn Davis, who handled crisis communications for the district during that period. “They didn’t use the word ‘language’ from a linguistic point of view.”
But that error – and resolution language referring to a “genetic” basis for African-American English that may also have been mistaken – would expose the board and the idea they were proposing to enormous criticism and ridicule, generally overshadowing the plight of African-American students in Oakland schools and the merits of the classroom approach being proposed.
The dominant narrative soon took shape that Oakland was trying to dumb down education by accepting Black English as a legitimate language of its own, and even teaching it to students. Oakland teachers were going to use street slang in the classroom or allow students to talk or write using it instead of standard English. The idea was pandering, political correctness run amok, and a sneaky attempt to win additional funding to boot.

Linguistic Confusion The New York Times
NYT editorial page opposing the Oakland plan
Almost immediately, editorial pages, oped sections, and talk shows were all over the story.
The Ebonics controversy was “Topic 1 on radio talk shows across the country,” notes Gene Maeroff in his book, “Imagining Education: The Media and Schools in America.”
Jesse Jackson came out against it on NBC’s Meet The Press. The New York Times editorial page denounced what it described as “linguistic confusion.” Cable news hosts like Rush Limbaugh warned that “we be happy” was going to be taught alongside Shakespeare. Frank Rich, a New York Times columnist at the time, called the school board “deranged” and the resolution an “incendiary separatist manifesto.” There was even a Doonesbury comic strip.
“I don’t even want to say it was mixed,” says William Brennan about what he saw in his reporting for The Atlantic. “For every good article on the subject there were just 10 that were useless and furthered misunderstandings about the topic and language in general.”
“Nobody made an effort to actually figure out what the school board was doing,” says the HuffPost’s Hobbes. “Everyone went with this cartoon version of what they were doing.”
To its defenders, Ebonics was a legitimate program being proposed by a largely black school board and attacked by a mostly white media establishment. To its critics – including middle-class African-Americans and black celebrities like Maya Angelou – it was a mistaken idea that would set kids back rather than launching them forward.
NHSA ad against the use of Ebonics in schools.
By and large, the news coverage of the Oakland proposal was unobjectionable, if ineffective at generating much attention.
The Oakland Tribune’s Bazeley wrote a pretty straightforward front-page story about the program, which he observed in action. “I believed at the time that the criticism was overblown because most people had a distorted view of what was happening in the classroom,” says Bazeley.
And the NYT’s Peter Applebome wrote a series of pieces about the controversy, fleshing out Oakland’s distinct place in California politics, the political dynamics surrounding the vote in favor of the resolution, and a controversial figure who seemed to be behind the Ebonics proposal.
One exception noted by several of those interviewed is Jacob Heilbrunn’s piece in The New Republic, which blended opinion and reporting.
But reporting some of these news stories took time – Applebome’s deepest piece didn’t come out until March – and was generally produced by reporters who were not familiar with English dialects or the history of programs to help dialect speakers learn the dominant form of the language.
And the distinction between news and opinion, which is so obvious and important to journalists, is not nearly as clear to non-journalists who tend to lump opinion and news together if it’s being published by the same outlet.
News stories written at the time weren’t nearly powerful or timely enough to compete with the wave of opinion writing and cable news. In a recap of his experience at the time, Stanford linguist John Rickford criticized the media for promoting a simplistic narrative. “The media refused to focus on this massive evidence of how schools fail to teach African American students with existing methods.”
The real-world responses were just as strong. Clinton Education Secretary Richard Riley denounced the policy. The national Head Start Association put a full-page ad in the New York Times with the title “I Has a Dream.” At least one state legislature banned Ebonics from being used in classrooms. And the US Senate scheduled a hearing on the debate.
After the congressional hearing, Oakland released an updated resolution that removed every mention of the word Ebonics. And “since then, no district has tried anything that ambitious for meeting the needs of its African-American students,” writes Hobbes.
Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 4.06.05 PM
April 2018 article about African-American English in The Atlantic 

Since 1996, the debate over using African-American English in classrooms has mostly gone quiet.
However, the need hasn’t gone away, and the practice of using students’ dialects as a bridge to standard English has quietly re-emerged.
That’s largely because the case for schools teaching kids code-switching remains a powerful one. Roughly a third of African-American English speakers don’t learn to code switch on their own, according to Georgia State professor Julie Washington. Students who speak both versions of English score higher than those who don’t. Those who lag behind in this area need to be taught or it may never happen. And it’s not just African-American kids who might benefit from this kind of help. The estimated 100,000 standard English Learners in Los Angeles public schools were the district’s lowest-performing students, according to a 2008 LA Daily News article.
What would happen if a district proposed something along the same lines in present times?
Many factors have changed. States no longer require teachers to pass tests showing their ability to speak standard English. It’s become somewhat commonplace for teachers to use rap music based on Black English and other dialects to engage and instruct kids. Bilingual education is much more familiar and less controversial than it was previously. And the idea of code-switching is a generally familiar one. The sense of urgency around racial justice and economic inequality is as strong as it’s been in decades. And there are no outlets and voices of opinion out there.
Georgia State’s Washington describes the Oakland resolution as mistaken and remembers the media response as an expression of racist attitudes in America at the time. And she says she was extremely nervous about participating in the The Atlantic article featuring her work and the dialect that came out earlier this month. But she believes that, after years of keeping their heads down, advocates of using the dialect to teach mainstream classroom English are re-emerging. “The dynamics have changed… The times have changed.”
However, public opinion remains deeply divided on issues of culture and race. Teaching English to kids who are born and raised in the US remains unfamiliar and is negatively associated with the Ebonics controversy. While the student population is more diverse than it was two decades ago, classroom teachers in America are predominantly white and monolingual. This population often brings with it negative judgments about dialects – which some linguists call “dominant language ideology” – based on their own experiences and culture.
And few journalists have as much time as they did 20 years ago to check out facts. Social media adds layers and dynamics that make even the most vitriolic newspaper op-eds seem quaint. Hot takes are all the rage, and opinion journalists are encouraged to be less nuanced in their approach.
“I think it would go down differently,” Brennan says about the notion of a district proposing to use African-American English in 2018, “but not necessarily more successfully.”

Primary sources:
The Atlantic: Julie Washington’s Quest to Get Schools to Respect African-American English
HuffPost Highline: Why America Needs Ebonics Now
NYT: Dispute Over Ebonics Reflects a Volatile Mix That Roils Urban Education
Education Week: Students Learn to ‘Toggle’ Between Dialects

Secondary sources
New Yorker: The Case for Black English
Rickford: The Ebonics controversy in my backyard
Rethinking School: The Real Ebonics Debate
The Atlantic: Academic Ignorance and Black Intelligence
LA Times: Oakland District Says Policy on Ebonics Misunderstood
New Yorker: Johnny Be Good
AP: Media Distort Black English Policy, Jackson Says
NPR: Survey Raises Concerns About Non-English Speaking Students
New York Times: School District Elevates Status of Black English

Related columns from The Grade:
“Feel-Good” Philadelphia Inquirer Story Highlights Concerns About Racial Blind Spots
Just How White Is Education Journalism – & How To Encourage More #edJOC?
Fear, Complicity, & Guilt Get In Way Of Covering School Segregation, Says NYT Reporter

Immigrants and Allies Weigh in on the Devastating Consequences of Chilling Participation in the Census

Terrible news.  Adding a citizenship question to the U.S. Census is a clear strategy for chilling immigrant participation and promises to result in an undercount which has enormous implications for resources and representation.  This is a Trumpian racist and xenophobic attack on the immigrant community, not unlike the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) dropping specific language related to our being a "nation of immigrants."  In my world, this is called institutionalized oppression. People don't have to be open bigoted if the government reflects their will where the president himself is playing to his base.



For Immediate Release     Contact: Michael Earls at 202-494-8555 or
March 28, 2018
Washington, DC – In response to the Trump Administration’s announcement that a citizenship question will be added to the Census, immigrants and their allies have responded forcefully. They argue that asking about citizenship status will drive down participation and undermine the constitutional aim of the Census to count all residents in the United States. Of course, this potential undercounting is deliberate and part of the Trump and GOP’s larger attempts to undermine the political power and allocation of resources to diverse communities across America.
According to Migration Policy Institute, as of 2016 there were more than 43.7 million immigrants living in the United States, constituting 13.5% of the total U.S. population of 323.1 million. Of these, Pew Research estimates that 11 million are unauthorized immigrants. According to a Center for American Progress study, more than 8 million U.S. citizens nationwide have at least one unauthorized family member living in their household. This includes more than 5.9 million citizen children who live with at least one undocumented family member. 
Anything that chills participation from up to one-sixth of the population is surely going to affect the accuracy of the overall effort.
Many immigrants are highlighting why they wouldn’t want to share any information with the Trump Administration:
Gladis Perez, a native of Guatemala who became a citizen five years ago tells Miriam Jordan in a New York Times story titled, “If Census Asks About Citizenship, Some Already Have an Answer: No Comment: “I wouldn’t answer any questions before … I wouldn’t even open the door. If I were still undocumented, I would avoid this survey at any cost.”
Carmen Queveda, an undocumented babysitter and housekeeper in Southern California who has a 14-year old, U.S. citizen son told Jordan: “I would never answer, because I don’t have papers … Obviously, I am afraid. I have a son.”
Cesar Morio, an undocumented construction worker from Mexico who lives in Southern Californiatold Jordan: “I know that no parent in my neighborhood is going to be opening the door for anyone doing a survey.”
An unnamed immigrant woman in California interviewed by Noticiero Univision: “It would make me really nervous because you know how things are with immigration nowadays”. The reporter states that if people don’t complete the Census out of fear, California would stand to lose millions of dollars in federal funds. To this the woman adds: “I would not complete it” if the citizenship question is included.
In another Univision story on the American Community Survey conducted last year by the Census, one of the persons interviewed in Spanish stated that “the possibility that the Census could provide my information to the national security and that immigration could find me and arrest me for lack of documentation terrorizes me.”
Even before new Census announcement, immigrants have been fearful of sharing information with Trump Administration. As HuffPost’s Sam Levine reportedArturo Vargas, the Executive Director of NALEO, “told HuffPost in January that officials already had trouble getting people to respond and convincing them the census would not share their information with other agencies.” 
The HuffPost story links to an internal Census Bureau memo from September in which “census field researchers reported that they were seeing unusually high concerns about confidentiality from respondents, particularly those in immigrant communities. Many people were falsifying the information they provided to researchers out of concern for their own immigration status or that of someone they knew.”
It is worth noting that in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida last year, many immigrants expressed fear about engaging with government-directed relief efforts, fearful that interacting with the government could exposed them to deportation.
Meanwhile, leading experts and advocates are explaining the implications of a potential Census undercount:
Angelica Salas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA): “Their goal is to try to make invisible our immigrant community in the Census and to create a situation in which civic engagement action, to be counted, becomes risky … But we are going to make sure that our community understands that they count for the United States and should participate. We are going to fight it.”
Erika Reyna, who is helping to coordinate Census efforts in Hidalgo County in southern Texas: “We know this question is going to have a detrimental impact on our efforts and is going to make people wary of responding … An undercount will mean fewer resources in an area that is high-need and growing.”
Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO):“We have many mixed-status families, and given this administration’s record on being anti-immigrant and Latino, the question will sow fear and confusion.”
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 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.”
Bob Ross, President of the NAACP Prince George’s County (MD) Branch and a named plaintiff in a new NAACP lawsuit against the Census Bureau: “When the Census Bureau undercounts my community, we lose political power, and fewer of our federal tax dollars end up coming home to fix our roads, run our schools, and fund our federal programs.”
Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice on Twitter: @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice
America's Voice – Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform

America's Top High School Science Students Are the Children of Immigrants

A lesser known, and for some, counterintuitive fact, is the astounding achievement of many children of immigrant youth who make, and have always made, our indicators look good.  This despite recent changes to H-1B visas as noted below,  in addition to a recent, unfortunate change as noted in a February 23, 2018 news report in USA Today, that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) dropped the specific language of being a "nation of immigrants" to describe our country.  These changes, of course, are in the context of the persistent demonizing of immigrants by the Trump administration in our country by a president who is himself the grandson of an immigrant and whose wife is an immigrant.  Such hypocrisy, narrow-mindedness, and meanness from the top echelons of power.


America's Top High School Science Students Are the Children of Immigrants

March 14, 2017
Courtesy of Society for Science & the Public
If the children of immigrants somehow disappeared from the U.S., America would suddenly be in a serious science talent deficit.
That’s the conclusion that can be drawn from a new report from the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to public policy research on trade, immigration, and education.
The organization found that 33 of the 40 finalists of the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search–the leading science competition for U.S. high school students, run by the Society for Science & the Public and now known as the Regeneron Science Talent Search–were the children of immigrants. Specifically, 30 out of the 40 finalists had parents who worked in America on H-1B visas, the option that is no longer available for expedited processing due to a recent policy change from the Trump administration.
“The science competition has been called the ‘Junior Nobel Prize,'” the Foundation says. “These outstanding children of immigrants would never have been in America if their parents had not been allowed into the U.S.”
Their ranks have been steadily increasing since 2004, the Foundation showed.
Here were the countries of origins for the 2016 finalists’ parents: India was No. 1 at 14, followed by China at No. 11.
And of the nine winners of the 2016 competition, seven were the children of immigrants.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Hidden Figures: How Donald Trump Is Rigging the Census

Profoundly concerning. This is a deliberate, concerted effort to undercount Hispanics/Latin@s within the U.S. Census.  Thanks to Dr. Roberto Calderon for sharing.  

Accessed: 28 March 2018
Efforts to sideline minority populations in 2020 will undermine democracy for decades to come.
May/June 2018 Issue
Photo: Preston Gannaway
Jorge Sanjuan pulled back a chain-link fence, and Cindy Quezada squeezed through the gap. They stepped over two rotting mattresses and an old tire and peered into a backyard. The neighbors eyed them suspiciously. “You guys with ICE?” one teenager asked.
Quezada laughed and shook her head. It was a sunny January afternoon, and she and Sanjuan had spent the past three hours crisscrossing the alleys of a Fresno, California, neighborhood with small one-story bungalows and Mexican restaurants, looking for sheds, garages, and trailers serving as makeshift homes. They weren’t out to harass the immigrants living there; they were there to count them. 
Quezada and Sanjuan were working with the Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative, a network of organizations embarking on a pilot program to identify “low-visibility housing” in Fresno in preparation for the 2020 census. The Constitution requires the executive branch to tally “the whole number of persons in each state.” But every 10 years, the census counts some people more than once—such as wealthy Americans who own multiple homes—and others not at all, particularly those who are poorer, move often, or fear the government. The 2010 census, the most accurate to date, overcounted white residents by nearly 1 percent while failing to count 1.5 million people of color, including 1.5 percent of Hispanics, 2.1 percent of blacks, and 4.9 percent of Native Americans on reservations, the Census Bureau later concluded. Mexican immigrants were especially undercounted because the bureau didn’t know where they lived or because multiple families lived in one household.
That’s why Quezada and Sanjuan were in Fresno, where 70 percent of residents are people of color, 20 percent are immigrants, and one-third live in poverty, making it one of the hardest places in the country to count. Only 73 percent of residents in the east Fresno neighborhood they were canvassing mailed back their census forms in 2010—if they ever received them in the first place.
A rooster darted from roof to roof. A canine symphony arose from behind the fences. “There should be a census for dogs,” Quezada remarked. Behind a yellow one-story house with a faded wood fence, they spotted a small garage next to an orange tree. It had two pipes for running water, which Sanjuan said meant it had been converted into a dwelling. Immigrants, particularly those who are undocumented, often live in such clandestine housing because they don’t have the credit to rent a conventional home or apartment. The house next door also had a converted garage in the backyard. Quezada marked the residences on her phone and sent the information through Facebook Messenger to the Census Outreach, an intermediary that would verify the data and eventually pass it along to the Census Bureau, which was cooperating with the pilot project in an effort to update addresses in advance of the 2020 census. “You have to go the extra mile to count people,” she said. “The average census worker isn’t going to go into the alleys like we do.”
Quezada and Sanjuan are both immigrants, but with very different backgrounds. Quezada, who is in her late 30s, fled war-torn El Salvador with her family in the 1980s after her father got a university research job in California. She has a doctorate in biology from the California Institute of Technology and worked for the State Department in Washington and the US Agency for International Development in Egypt before returning home and eventually taking a job with the collaborative. She wore a stylish tweed blazer and skinny jeans as she roamed the alleys and enthusiastically took photos of everything she saw, including a dead rat. Sanjuan, 43, came from Mexico when he was 17, and since then he’s barely left California and hasn’t attended school, apart from English-language classes. He wore a black “CA” baseball cap and a blue T-shirt. Having remodeled many unconventional structures as a construction worker, he was an expert at spotting hidden housing. Quezada compiled the data.
Cindy Quezada and Jorge Sanjuan canvass a neighborhood in Fresno, California, in January, looking for low-visibility housing. Preston Gannaway

Of all the ways democracy is threatened under President Donald Trump, an unfair and inaccurate census could have the most dramatic long-term impact.
The census is America’s largest civic event, the only one that involves everyone in the country, young and old, citizen and noncitizen, rich and poor—or at least it’s supposed to. It’s been conducted every 10 years since 1790, when US Marshals first swore an oath to undertake “a just and perfect enumeration” of the population. The census determines how $675 billion in federal funding is allocated to states and localities each year for things like health care, schools, public housing, and roads; how many congressional seats and electoral votes each state receives; and how states will redraw local and federal voting districts. Virtually every major institution in America relies on census data, from businesses looking for new markets to the US military tracking the needs of veterans. The census lays the groundwork for the core infrastructure of our democracy, bringing a measure of transparency and fairness to how representation and resources are allocated across the country.
But with the Trump administration in charge, voting rights advocates fear the undercount could be amplified, shifting economic resources and political power toward rural, white, and Republican communities. The census is scheduled to begin on April 1, 2020, in the middle of the presidential election season. Of all the ways democracy is threatened under President Donald Trump—a blind eye to Russian meddling in elections, a rollback of voting rights, a disregard for checks and balances—an unfair and inaccurate census could have the most dramatic long-term impact. “It’s one of those issues that’s often the least sexy, least discussed in certain corners, and yet the ramifications for communities of color and vulnerable communities are so high in terms of what’s at stake for economic power and political power,” says Vanita Gupta, who led the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama and now directs the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. 
A “perfect storm” is threatening the 2020 census, says Terri Ann Lowenthal, a former staff director for the House Subcommittee on Census and Population. Budget cuts enacted by the Trump administration and the Republican Congress forced the bureau to cancel crucial field tests in 2017 and 2018. The bureau’s director resigned last June, and the administration has yet to name a full-time director or deputy director. The next census will also be the first to rely on the internet. The Census Bureau will mail households a postcard with instructions on how to fill out the form online; if they don’t respond, it will send field-workers, known as enumerators, to knock on their doors. But in an effort to save money, there will be 200,000 fewer enumerators than in 2010, increasing the likelihood that households without reliable internet access will go uncounted. Enumerators will carry tablets instead of paper forms, and the reliance on technology raises cybersecurity fears in the wake of high-profile hacks and foreign election interference.
“They’re putting together the census under a pall of uncertainty,” says Kenneth Prewitt, who directed the 2000 census. “How much money, who’s going to be in charge, what are we going to do on the core questionnaire itself? To do that under such a level of uncertainty is literally unprecedented.”
And then, on Monday night, the Trump administration dropped the biggest bombshell of all. The Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, announced that it would include a question about US citizenship on the census for the first time since 1950. Civil rights groups say the move will cause immigrants, particularly undocumented ones, to avoid responding to the census for fear of being reported to immigration authorities. The result will be a massive undercount of the Latino population, leading to reduced political power and federal resources for places like Fresno. The state of California, which has the country’s largest immigrant population, quickly filed a lawsuit against the administration over the question.
Juan, who lives in a rural area outside Kerman, California, known as Tijuanitas, carries his granddaughter as the family heads to a doctor’s appointment.  Preston Gannaway
Sanjuan has been in the United States for 26 years and has a 12-year-old son who is a US citizen. He filled out the census for the first time in 2010, in part to ensure that his state and local governments received their share of federal funding for social programs. (California’s finance office estimates the state will lose $1,900 annually for each uncounted resident in 2020.) “The benefits weren’t really for me because I never ask for anything, but there are benefits that can help my son,” he told me at La Luna, a Mexican bakery in a working-class Latino neighborhood near the Yosemite Freeway, after a long afternoon canvassing Fresno’s alleys. In the run-up to the 2010 census, he helped conduct research on low-visibility housing in the San Joaquin Valley, an agricultural region that runs from Stockton in the north to Bakersfield in the south, with Fresno in the middle. He met farmworkers sleeping under trees near irrigation canals and urged them to respond to the census so they could receive better housing. “I’ve always said that they don’t have anything to fear because if [the government] really wanted to get rid of you, they would have done it a long time ago,” he said.
Percentage of the population under- and over-counted
Hispanic was not included as an option on the census before 1980.
Source: Census Bureau; compiled by Eli Day
But now undocumented immigrants are “much more fearful that they’re going to deport everyone,” he said. “They’ve arrested people in stores, at work, on buses.” He showed me a video posted to Facebook that day of Border Patrol agents searching for farmworkers in a field near the Mexican border. That week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided 77 businesses in Northern California, then the largest sweep since Trump became president. “California better hold on tight,” ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan told Fox News. “They’re about to see a lot more special agents, a lot more deportation officers.”
Sanjuan said it would be easier to persuade fellow immigrants to respond to the census if not for Trump. “I believe it’s going to be difficult to convince people now,” he told me. 
In his first State of the Union address, Trump returned to familiar themes from his presidential campaign, decrying “open borders [that] have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities.” Immigrants, he said, had stolen jobs from native-born Americans and “caused the loss of many innocent lives.” He highlighted the stories of families who’d lost children to the MS-13 gangs, and of the cops who’d battled them.
The next morning, 25 Latina women gathered for a monthly support group at the Fresno Center for New Americans, located in a strip mall next to a Family Dollar and an El Pollo Loco restaurant. They sat at a long U-shaped table beneath a mural of verdant farmland scenes that celebrated Fresno as “the best little city in the USA.”
Quezada was there to give a presentation on the census. “I am an immigrant,” she said in Spanish, and she described how her family had escaped the civil war in El Salvador after the American-backed military regime falsely accused her father of being a communist. “When I was little, all I knew was war,” she said.
Quezada showed a slide of an ICE agent knocking on the door of a terrified woman. “You have the right to say nothing and also to ask to speak with your lawyer,” Quezada said. “This is [true] if you have documents or do not have documents.” The census, too, she said, “is a right that one should exercise. And it is a right that we all have as immigrants and as human beings.”
A group of women share birthday cake after a community support group for Latinas in Fresno, California, in January. Preston Gannaway
She asked how many of the women had participated in the census before. Only a few raised their hands. Maria, a farmworker who’d been in the United States for 37 years, said she’d filled out the form in 2010 but couldn’t convince her neighbors to do so. “They’re afraid,” she said. “They tell you, ‘They’re not going to count me. They only count people with documents. We thought we were going to be investigated.'” Her friends who received the form threw it in the trash, she added.
Adela, who came to Fresno 10 years ago, had never filled out a census form either. “You come not knowing the laws,” she said. “People say, ‘Oh, don’t fill it out because you don’t have insurance. You’re not here legally. As a result, you can’t fill it out. It doesn’t count. Even if you fill it out, it doesn’t count.'” She also recalled seeing 2010 census forms in trash cans in Fresno.
Quezada explained that California received $77 billion annually from the federal government, allocated according to census data, for programs that many people in the room used, like Head Start, English-language classes, and Medi-Cal public health insurance. If these 25 women were counted, she said, then over 10 years they would attract funding on the order of “half a million dollars, in this little room.” She added, “I hope you see the magnitude of the consequence of not participating.”
The 2010 census, the most accurate to date, overcounted white residents by nearly 1 percent while failing to count 1.5 million people of color.
Francesca, a mother of four from Guerrero, Mexico, who had lived in Fresno for 18 years, raised her hand. She wanted to know why, despite staying at the same address in Fresno for 11 years, she didn’t receive a census form in 2010. “Almost everyone I know has never filled out a form,” she said. She wondered if that was one reason there weren’t enough teachers at her children’s schools and the classes were too large. (Census data helps school districts decide where to build new schools and hire teachers.)
Twenty percent of Californians live in hard-to-count areas like Fresno, where more than a quarter of all households failed to mail back their 2010 census forms, including a third of Latinos and African Americans, Quezada told the group. She pulled up a map showing that California contains 10 of the 50 counties in the country with the lowest census response rates. Those 10 counties are home to 8.4 million people; 38 states have smaller populations.
“There I am,” Francesca said, pointing at the map.
“Yes,” Quezada responded. “There you are.”
After the 2010 census failed to count 1.5 million US residents of color, the government might have been expected to devote more resources to ensure an accurate count. Instead, in 2012 Congress told the Census Bureau, over the Obama White House’s objections, to spend less money on the 2020 census than it had in 2010, despite inflation and the fact that the population was projected to grow by 25 million. After Trump took office, Congress cut the bureau’s budget by another 10 percent and gave it no additional funding for 2018, even though the census typically receives a major cash infusion at this juncture to prepare for the decennial count. (In late March, Congress allocated $1.3 billion in additional funding for the 2020 census, double what the Trump administration requested.)
The bureau’s director, John Thompson, testified on Capitol Hill in May 2017 that the budget cuts would force “difficult decisions.” A week later, he announced his resignation. The bureau canceled field tests last year in Puerto Rico and on Native American reservations in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington state that were designed to help the census reach hard-to-count communities. It then eliminated two of three “dress rehearsals” planned for April 2018, leaving Providence, Rhode Island, as the only site to test the bureau’s new technology before the 2020 census begins. (Rhode Island’s secretary of state says she’s received almost no communication from the bureau about the test.) Prewitt, the census director in 2000, compared the situation to the Air Force putting a new fighter plane into battle without testing it first. “You would never do that to the military,” he said, “but they’re doing that to the census.”
The Census Bureau has half as many regional centers and field offices today as it did in 2010. The Denver office oversees a region that stretches from Canada to Mexico. With the Boston office closed, the New York office covers all of New England. There are only two census outreach workers for all of the New York City metro area, according to Jeff Wice, a census expert at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government in New York.The first digital census may make the process more convenient for some people, but 36 percent of African Americans and 30 percent of Hispanics have neither a computer nor broadbandinternet at home, and a Pew Research Center survey published last year foundthat more than a third of Americans making less than $30,000 a year lack smartphones. In California’s Central Valley, “people aren’t just sitting around in a beaten-down trailer or an old motel on their laptop waiting to fill out their census form,” says Ilene Jacobs, director of litigation, advocacy, and training for California Rural Legal Assistance. (The Census Bureau will partially mitigate this issue by mailing paper questionnaires to the 20 percent of American households that have poor internet access.)
States expected to gain and lose congressional seats after 2020
These changes assume a fairly conducted census. A politicized one could distort the map.
Source: Election Data Services
Quezada and Sanjuan identified more than 600 unconventional structures in Fresno that could be sent census notices in 2020, increasing the number of housing units in the Census Bureau’s database by 6.3 percent in the areas they canvassed. But there will be fewer people dispatched by the bureau to count their occupants in person if they fail to respond, with the number of enumerators nationally dropping from more than 500,000 in 2010 to about 300,000 in 2020.
The technological shortcomings of the census are becoming apparent. Last year, the Government Accountability Office labeled it a “high risk” program and warned that the census website’s scheduled launch in April 2020 could resemble the disastrous rollout in 2010. The GAO found that only 4 of the bureau’s 40 technology systems had cleared testing, and none were ready to be used in the field.
Cybersecurity is also a major concern. Thompson says the bureau receives a “large number of attacks” every day. An internal review in January listed cybersecurity and public skepticism of the bureau’s ability to handle confidential data as the top two “major concerns that could affect the design or the successful implementation of the 2020 census.” The GAO has warned that “cyber criminals may attempt to steal personal information collected during and for the 2020 Decennial Census.” Hackers, including from Russia, could even seek to manipulate the overall count by breaking into the bureau’s databases.
Strong leadership could remedy some of these deficiencies, but there’s essentially no one steering the ship. Thompson announced his resignation on May 9, 2017, the same day FBI Director James Comey was fired. Thompson’s deputy, Nancy Potok, had already left to become the country’s chief statistician. The administration still hasn’t nominated anyone to replace them.
In November, Politico reported that Thomas Brunell, a professor of political science at the University of Texas-Dallas, would become the bureau’s deputy director, the position in charge of running the decennial census. Unlike past deputy directors, who were nonpartisan career civil servants with extensive census experience, Brunell had never worked in government. He had, however, written a 2008 book called Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America, which provocatively argued that segregating voters by party affiliation in ultrasafe electoral districts offered them better representation than spreading them across competitive ones. He’d also been hired by Republicans in more than a dozen states as an expert witness in redistricting cases, defending some GOP-drawn maps that were later struck down by federal courts for racial gerrymandering. 
The reports about Brunell sparked furious pushback from civil rights advocates. “It’s breathtaking to think they’re going to make that person responsible for the census,” former Attorney General Eric Holder told me. “It’s a sign of what the Trump administration intends to do with the census, which is not to take a constitutional responsibility with the degree of seriousness that they should. It would raise great fears that you would have a very partisan census.”
Prominent anti-immigration hardliners are hoping to use citizenship data from the census to further reduce immigrants’ political influence.
In February, Brunell withdrew from consideration. Yet the bureau has already become politicized. Last year, Trump installed Kevin Quinley, the former research director at Kellyanne Conway’s Republican polling firm, whose clients included Breitbart News, as a special adviser to the bureau. Quinley reports to the Office of White House Liaison at the Commerce Department, which reports to the White House, according to a former department official. “If something like that happened to me as a director, I would feel intimidated by it,” says Prewitt. In March, the bureau chose as its head of congressional affairs a top aide to former Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who repeatedly introduced legislation to add a question about US citizenship to the census form.
The push to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census came from the Justice Department, which requested the change in December. The department said it needed the information to enforce the Voting Rights Act. Gupta, the former head of the department’s Civil Rights Division, says that’s “plainly a ruse to collect that data and ultimately to sabotage the census.” Six former directors of the bureau who served under Republican and Democratic presidents wrote a letter opposing the citizenship question. Steve Murdock, who led the census from 2008 to 2009 under President George W. Bush, told me, “It would be a horrendous problem for the Census Bureau and create all kind of controversies.” When I asked immigrants in the Fresno area whether they would respond to the census if it included a question about citizenship, virtually all of them said no.

Prominent anti-immigration hardliners, including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the former vice chair of Trump’s election integrity commission, are hoping to use citizenship data from the census to further reduce immigrants’ political influence. They have issued a radical proposal to draw legislative maps based on the number of citizens in a district rather than the total population, which would significantly diminish political representation for areas with large numbers of noncitizens. 
Even before the Justice Department proposed the citizenship question, field surveys and focus groups conducted by the bureau in five states in 2017 foundthat “fears, particularly among immigrant respondents, have increased markedly.” Interviewees “intentionally provided incomplete or incorrect information about household members due to concerns regarding confidentiality, particularly relating to perceived negative attitudes toward immigrants,” according to a memo from the Center for Survey Measurement, a division of the bureau. One Spanish-speaking field representative told the bureau that a family moved away from a trailer park to avoid being interviewed: “There was a cluster of mobile homes, all Hispanic. I went to one and I left the information on the door. I could hear them inside. I did two more interviews, and when I came back they were moving…It’s because they were afraid of being deported.”
Such fear has precedent. During World War II, the Census Bureau gave the names and addresses of Japanese Americans to the Secret Service, which used the information to round up people and send them to internment camps. That abuse led to strict confidentiality standards for the bureau. But many immigrants will never trust the Trump administration with their personal information. “Immigrants and their families all feel under attack, under siege, by the federal government,” says Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, who serves on a Census Bureau advisory committee. “And then we have to turn around and tell these same people, ‘Trust the federal government when they come to count you.'”
The Commerce Department now estimates that only 55 percent of Americans will initially fill out the census in 2020 after receiving a postcard in the mail, down from 63 percent who sent back the first form in 2010. The need to reach out to the remainder of the population will drive up expenses and could result in further cutbacks. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who worked as an enumerator while attending Harvard Business School, told Congress in October that the census would cost $3 billion more than initially projected.

Families listen to a presentation about the census at a low-income apartment complex in Huron, California, in February. Preston Gannaway
Already, the bureau’s outreach is lagging. For the 2010 census, it ran a $340 million promotional ad campaign featuring Winter Olympians, NASCAR drivers, and Dora the Explorer. “Everyone counts on the census form!” Dora said in one ad. The popular Telemundo telenovela Más Sabe el Diablo (“The Devil Knows Best”) even featured a storyline where the character Perla got a job working for the Census Bureau in New York City.
So far, the bureau has only 40 employees working with local governments and community groups on outreach, far short of the 120 at this point 10 years ago. The bureau is focusing its limited budget on perfecting the new technology it will use in 2020, shortchanging the advertising and local partnerships it typically uses to reach hard-to-count communities. (More than 30 private foundations—including the Oakland, California-based WKF Fund, which sponsored the outreach effort in Fresno—are attempting to fill the void and have raised $17 million to support community groups working on the census.) “They’re going to have to spend a lot of money to convince people it’s okay to be counted,” says Thompson. If the money isn’t there, “you’re not going to count everyone.” 
After the 1990 census failed to count 4 million people—including 4.6 percent of African Americans, 5 percent of Hispanics, and 12 percent of Native Americans—the bureau issued a proposal to more accurately tally minority communities. It would use statistical sampling, which included detailed demographic data and survey research, to adjust the final census count and compensate for the demographic skew. That provoked a furious response from Republicans, who claimed sampling would be inaccurate and cost their party 24 seats in Congress and 410 seats in state legislatures. “At stake is our GOP majority in the House of Representatives as well as partisan control of state legislatures nationwide,” said Republican National Committee Chair Jim Nicholson. House Speaker Newt Gingrich sued the Census Bureau and took the case to the Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 in his favor, even though, as Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his dissent, “the use of sampling will make the census more accurate than an admittedly futile attempt to count every individual by personal inspection, interview, or written interrogatory.”
Mayor Rey León of Huron, California  Preston Gannaway
Brookings Institution demographer William Frey projects that in the 2020 census, for the first time, the white share of the population will fall below 60 percent. Trump, who won the white vote by 20 points in 2016, would stand to gain politically if the census were manipulated to slow that shift. Undercounting minority populations would do the greatest harm to states like California, which has the most immigrants in the country. A significant undercount in 2020 could cost the state more than $20 billion over a decade and potentially one or two congressional seats and electoral votes. California isplanning to spend $50 million over the next two years on outreach to hard-to-count populations.
“If we lose a congressional seat or two, our voice is minimized,” says state Rep. Joaquin Arambula, a Democrat from the Fresno area. “Our representation in the Electoral College is diminished. Our ability to influence who the next president is has changed. And it’s not reflective of what our democracy truly represents: one person, one vote.”
Some former directors of the census worry Republicans could simply choose to disregard the 2020 count. There’s precedent for that, too.
Back in 1920, the census reported that for the first time, half the population lived in urban areas. Those results would have shifted 11 House seats to states with most of these new urban immigrants, who tended to vote Democratic. The Republican-controlled Congress recoiled. “It is not best for America that her councils be dominated by semicivilized foreign colonies in Boston, New York, and Chicago,” said Republican Rep. Edward Little of Kansas.
Congress refused to reapportion its seats using the 1920 census. Instead, it imposed drastic new quotas on immigration. It didn’t adopt a new electoral map until 1929.
There’s no indication Congress will ignore the results of the 2020 census. But Prewitt sees parallels between the Republican Congress of 1920 and the one today. “You could make a plausible argument that one party benefits from the current distribution of seats across the legislative bodies, and they can’t necessarily improve on the ratio they now have, so therefore why reapportion?” he says. “It’s unlikely, but not implausible.”
A day after canvassing the alleys of east Fresno, Quezada and Sanjuan drove me 30 miles south, past almond, pistachio, and orange fields. We reached a sprawling, unofficial trailer park, three miles square, inhabited by farmworkers and known as Tijuanitas.
Across the street from a grape field, we met a woman named Jacinta in front of her white trailer, next to a huge pile of abandoned refrigerators and tires. Her three children played by a plywood chicken coop in the backyard while her husband was out picking lettuce.
Mailboxes near Kerman and Huron, California.   Preston Gannaway
Jacinta arrived 11 years ago from Oaxaca, Mexico, where she’d grown up speaking Triqui, an indigenous language. She doesn’t remember receiving a census form in 2010 and said that if anyone from the government came to Tijuanitas, she wouldn’t open the door. When Quezada asked whether she would fill out the census form if she received one, Jacinta responded, “I can’t read. How can I fill it out if I can’t read or write?” 
Her next-door neighbor, a grape picker named Gilberto, had lived there for 20 years. A cage with two doves hung from a tree in his front yard; his work tools dangled from another. He was also from Oaxaca but spoke Mixtec, another indigenous language. When Quezada asked if he’d ever received the census form, Gilberto said no. “The census is for US citizens only,” he said. “If I received the form, I would return it because I’m not a US citizen.” Quezada told him the census counted noncitizens, too. “I didn’t know that,” Gilberto responded.
Tijuanitas isn’t visible from any major roads. It’s accessible only by a pothole-filled dirt road. It lacks safe drinking water and internet access, according to Quezada. Many residents have no street address and receive mail at PO boxes in nearby San Joaquin. From the perspective of the Postal Service or internet providers or utility companies, it’s as if Tijuanitas doesn’t exist. It appears ever likelier that the 2020 census will regard Tijuanitas and other underserved and neglected communities across the country the same way.