Texas Diversity Digest: The Power of the Census and Demographic Shifts

By Indira Bridges

In light of the current state of aggression towards immigrants (especially those of color) in our nation, skepticism and uncertainty remains high over the citizenship question on the upcoming 2020 census. In June, the Supreme Court ordered to temporarily block the Trump administration’s petition to include a citizenship question on the census. The court found the reasoning presented by the administration did not suffice to allow for the question to be included.  The given judgment is effective for the 2020 census, however, because the question was not deemed unconstitutional but rather poorly supported, the citizenship question may come to be in the future. 

The census is not as mundane and benign as people may assume – it holds power. For one it deals with apportionment which dictates political representation nationally, as well as informs the distribution of funding across districts. Demographers in charge of constructing the census are aware that the question of citizenship can lead non-citizens to avoid the census completely, resulting in an inaccurate count. Consequently then migrant communities are left underrepresented and unheard. Considering the high number of immigrants and migrants within Texas, it is important that we asses how this upcoming census impacts these communities.

Due to its proximity to the border, Texas has long been a hub for international migration. More recently it has seen an alternating increase between immigrants and domestic migrants. Since 2017, international migration to Texas has increased by 28%, with migrants from neighboring Latin America making up a significant portion of this population. However, more recently there has been a spike in migrants from Asia, about 45% in 2016. Asian migrants, particularly from China, India and Japan are making up the highest growth rate in the state largely because of educational and job opportunities. Their Hispanic counterparts, however, remain the largest non-white population in the state and are on track to become the largest demographic in the state. Noncitizens among these populations are likely to avoid filling out the census as a way of staying clear of ICE and local law enforcement. Unaccounting for noncitizens tells a false story of the current reconstruction of Texas demographics, which could very well be in favor of non-Hispanic whites striving to uphold the influence of white supremacy within politics. In some Democratic districts, the noncitizen population makes upwards to 26% of the population. If not accounted for, their district can be redrawn as red. We’ve seen an increase in progressivism pushing a substantial amount of Texans blue, however, it has not gone without resistance from politicians trying to keep the red hold. With these shifting demographics and strict immigration policies on the table, the question is how these changes in population now threaten a tradition of white supremacy and political domination.

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