Phoenix Mayor On Census Immigration Question

Mar 31, 2018
Originally published on April 4, 2018 8:58 am
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The Trump administration has added a new question to the 2020 census. It asks, is this person a citizen of the United States? This is the first time the census has included a citizenship question since the 1950s. And more than 160 mayors have signed a letter that says the question may lower participation by immigrants and compromise the results of the census, which is used to figure government services and legislative boundaries. Greg Stanton is the mayor of Phoenix, Ariz., and joins us now. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for being with us.

GREG STANTON: It's great to be here.

SIMON: You signed this letter. What's your concern about how this question might affect your city?

STANTON: Well, the purpose of the census, of course, is to get an accurate count of all people who are here in the United States of America. And a question about citizenship will inevitably result in a significant undercount, will have the impact of having many, many people who are here in our country be concerned about answering those questions - likely then not answering those questions, not participating in the census. And by doing so, we won't get an accurate count. And we won't be able to distribute those important federal dollars evenly throughout the country.

SIMON: And how do you answer the concern that among the jobs the census has to figure is how many people might reside in the United States who might not be citizens?

STANTON: Well, the primary job of the census is to get an accurate count of the number of people who are here, not to play politics or to get involved in the controversial issues as it relates to immigration. It's to try to get an accurate count.

SIMON: From your perspective, Mr. Mayor, help us understand what federal programs you're most worried about in your city.

STANTON: Well, look. As a mayor of a major American city, I want to fight for every dollar that the people of our community deserve. So whether it be dollars related to Medicaid so that working families and poor families can get the health care that they deserve, whether it be CDBG - Community Development Block Grant, which supports great nonprofits building our neighborhoods so they can be as strong as possible. What about LIHEAP, which is the Low Income Energy Assistance Program? In Phoenix, it gets really hot, and that heat can be deadly. And if they don't have that energy assistance, it can really harm a family. So that's just a flavor of a few of the programs that I'm passionate about.

SIMON: Have you gotten any kind of bipartisan support, Mr. Mayor?

STANTON: We just found out over the last few days that this question is going to be added. And I think once more Arizonans figure this out, what's at risk, what we could lose as a state, I'm confident that both political leadership and business leadership and nonprofit community and people that represent our neighborhoods throughout our city and state - they're going to come together and say this is simply not fair or appropriate to the state of Arizona. And if you love our state - and I do love our state - you've got to make sure that the census is fair and captures everyone. And we shouldn't politicize it and add questions that will inevitably lead to an undercount.

SIMON: Greg Stanton is the mayor of Phoenix. Thanks so much for being with us.

STANTON: Thank you so much. Have a good one. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.