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Clarke Tackles Immigrant Rights, 2020 Census at Flatbush Town Hall

Lawmakers and advocates are mobilizing to prevent a census undercount among communities of color and immigrant communities.
Clarke Census Town Hall, BK Reader
Rep. Clarke convened a panel of census and immigration experts to address questions and concerns of the community. Photo courtesy Office of Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke

Immigrant rights and the importance of the 2020 Census were in the focus at a town hall convened by Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke Tuesday night at Brooklyn College. 

The congresswoman was joined by a panel of experts that included Jeff T. Behler, regional director of the U.S. Census Bureau; Jose Interiano, deputy chief at the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office; Sonia Lin, deputy commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs; Ravi Ragbir of the New Sanctuary Coalition; Elizabeth Rieser-Murphy, attorney at Legal Aid Society; and Carlos Sierra, community liaison for the CUNY Citizenship Now.

Clarke, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus' newly-formed 2020 Census Task Force, stressed that filling out the census accurately is crucial for the traditionally hard-to-count Central Brooklyn communities to secure the federal resources they need.

"The communities of the 9th District of New York are widely regarded as hard-to-count, which has been the case for decades now," said Clarke whose district includes the neighborhoods of Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush and Prospect Heights. "The hard-to-count populations of the district present a distorted view of the needs of our families, and these counts will impact our community for ten years. We must ensure every single person—from babies to our seniors—is counted."

The census is a snapshot of the geography and demographics of a community and provides the basis on which the federal government determines how to distribute resources and funding. 

"Our ability to meet the needs of our community are linked directly to our rate of compliance in filling out the census," Clarke added.

Brooklyn is not only one of the hardest to count counties in the state, but also ranks among the counties with the largest population of immigrants. The borough is home to nearly 950,000 foreign-born residents, which constitutes nearly 40 percent of the borough's population.

And while the Trump Administration, in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, abandoned its plan to add the citizenship question in the 2020 Census, local lawmakers and advocates are mobilizing to prevent a census undercount among communities of color and immigrant communities, which would severely impact their access to representation and resources.

The panelists also addressed questions surrounding the Trump Administration's immigration policies and provided the audience with local and state government resources regarding legal immigration and citizenship services.

"This town hall is all about my constituents —sharing information and resources, so individuals and families living in Central Brooklyn are informed and able to thrive," said Clarke. "There is a lot of misinformation and fearmongering out there in our current climate of Donald Trump's anti-immigrant, xenophobic agenda. Together, with the experts in this room, we use our voices to tell the truth and to ease the anxieties of my constituents from immigrant families."