The Trump administration’s continuous attack on the 2020 Census has many advocacy groups concerned about how a potential undercount will impact funding for community services and programs. But with the census deadline looming, an undercount of immigrants and other hard-to-reach communities across the U.S. could crush an already struggling patchwork of childcare services that many families rely on. 

Trump’s most recent attack on the census came July 21, when he issued an executive memorandum banning undocumented immigrants from participating in this year’s census.  

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates that up to 20 million U.S. citizens could be thrown in with undocumented immigrants, resulting in an inaccurate count because there is no foolproof method of knowing which census respondents are U.S. citizens, which are legal immigrants, and which are undocumented. 

“This is all part of a lengthy scheme to eliminate services to immigrant communities,” said Dale Ho, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, during a recent MPI webinar about the Census. 

Many communities in the Bay Area have large immigrant populations, making them vulnerable to funding cuts that could happen as a result of an inaccurate census count. This underrepresentation could impact child care services particularly hard.

“Many child care programs have concerns about children being undercounted in the census, especially programs who receive the majority of their funding from state and federal funding,” said Karen Haas-Foletta, Executive Director of Footsteps Child Care Inc., a Bay Area based non profit care provider. “Footsteps has a state preschool contract and also serves several families whose tuition is paid for by the state or the county. Undercounting of children especially where there is such a big need for subsidized care is very troubling. Footsteps has a blended funding source mostly paid by full paid tuition so we will not be as affected as preschools who are one hundred percent state funded.” 

A staff report from the San Mateo County Manager’s Office estimates that more than 100,000 residents depend on child care to work. Without it, “many parents and caregivers in San Mateo County will leave the workforce,” reads the report. 

Juno Duenas is the Executive Director for Support for Families with Disabilities in San Francisco, a parent-run San Francisco-based non profit organization that supports families of children with any kind of disabilities or special healthcare needs. Support for Families receives about 80 percent of its funding from government sources. They provide training to childcare and afterschool program providers on how to include children with disabilities. 

“This is a part of the community that is often overlooked and stigmatized,” Duenas said. “Identifying services for these children is extremely difficult, so it is incredibly important to get those families the information and education they need and the students the services they need. In the long term, it makes such a difference in their quality of life, it can mean the difference between being in an institution or becoming self-sufficient. The impact is far reaching and widespread.”  

“The main concern I hear from undocumented families is that they do not want to share their information for fear of being identified,” said Olga Maldonado, Parent Mentor Coordinator at Support for Families. “If a member in the family is undocumented, they often decide not to include them in the census,” 

“Families that rent an illegal unit or rent a room feel unsafe to fill out the census for fear of being identified. Landlords may have a similar fear when they rent a unit where they don’t report the income. Often families don’t know where to get answers to questions, especially those families that aren’t familiar with technology. There is a lot of misinformation being spread about the census and the current government has created a lot of insecurity with Latino families. Many rely on the media headlines and aren’t fully informed about the Census benefits. Some agencies in the community, such as Mission Graduates and MEDA, have been doing an incredible job at training and sharing the value of completing the Census.”

The 2020 Census faces more legal challenges than in any prior years. What’s at stake is not only how census data is used to distribute the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, but also how billions of dollars in federal spending is allocated, as well decisions about government and private-sector planning that impact everyone, citizens and non-citizens. 

“The cost of not having a good census is very high,” said Kenneth Prewitt, former director of the U.S. Census Bureau and Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs at Columbia University. “From the miscount of veterans to the number of teachers needed by county and state; and it will be wrong for all of a decade.”