Some community leaders praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to nix a citizenship question on the 2020 census, but they worry that many people will still be afraid to participate.
“Very few people pay attention to what the federal court does,” said Mary Lopez, lead organizer with OneAmerica in Yakima. “This is not easy, to change people’s minds. It’s going to take time.”
Lopez said her organization has joined a coalition with other area communities, such as the Yakama Nation and Pacific Islander population, in an effort to bolster census participation.
“People of color are getting involved,” she said. “We have all the representation we need in Yakima County. We are trying to do our best to reach every community.”
The Rev. Joseph Tyson, bishop of the Yakima Catholic Diocese, said the proposed census question is one of many issues that have frightened the local immigrant community. Deportations, ICE flights landing in Yakima and the Trump administration’s attempts to dismantle Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — DACA — all contribute to distrust in government, Tyson said.
“On one level I think it’s good news,” he said of Thursday’s ruling, “but I think we’re all going to have to work hard to deal with this fear factor. It just creates this climate of uncertainty and fear.”
A 7 p.m. gathering will be held July 9 at St. Joseph Parish to help dispel some of the fear that’s reverberated throughout the community. Representatives from local agencies who serve the immigrant community, including police and city officials, are expected to attend, Tyson said.
“Just so folks know there are community services and that we’re here for them and not ramping up the community fear,” he said.
Asa Washines, a former Yakama Nation tribal councilman, said he was happily surprised by the ruling from the nation’s highest court.
“Actually, I thought the judges were going to side with the Trump administration — I was surprised,” he said Thursday.
He’s been part of the campaign to get more Yakamas to participate in the census. He hopes Native Americans as well as other minority communities understand that census data helps secure federal funding for services on reservations across the country.
“There are resources that go back into the community,” he said. “This affects them directly, so the more who are counted accurately, the more resources our community will get.”