Update (Friday, Oct. 2): This is a developing story. The Trump Administration had defied the Sept. 24 ruling and insisted on ending the census Oct. 5. The parties returned to court and on Friday, Oct. 2, a judge ruled the census must continue until Oct. 31. As of 10:30 am, the Administration had not yet filed a response to that new order. The original article follows below.
When the Trump administration announced an early end date for the census to be completed, groups scrambled to get as many people counted as possible. But on Sept. 24, a federal court ordered the administration to stick to the original end date of October 31.
The decision brought reprieve, and some frustration, to organizations tasked with counting Haitian-Americans in this decennial Census already plagued by legal and coronavirus delays.
“Now that we have a month, we’re going to continue and intensify our campaign to make sure those who are part of hard-to-reach populations are touched and encouraged to complete the census,” said Marleine Bastien, executive director of the Family Action Network Movement (FANM).
Bastien added, “While we are celebrating the court decision, we are saddened by the fact that folks had to spend resources and time to go to court for something that should have been a no-brainer.”
The Trump administration has said it plans to appeal the preliminary injunction from U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh.
The latest ruling coincides with bipartisan congressional efforts to force the government to continue the count until October 31.
The ruling comes after weeks of fighting over the Trump Administration’s baffling decision to cut the census short by one month. The decision caused outrage among both Democrats and Republicans, who said census counters needed as much time as possible given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
In her decision, Koh said Census Bureau officials had warned shortening the timeline would lead to grave inaccuracies and “produce inaccurate numbers about historically undercounted groups, including people of color and immigrants.”
Koh also sided with the groups who filed the lawsuit, such the National Urban League, claiming the move to shorten the date was “arbitrary and capricious.”
Groups like Bastien’s FANM had already sent Census 2020 canvassers out into the Miami area with the urgent message that the census was ending on September 30. They advocated for as many Haitians and Haitian-Americans as possible to fill out the census. They told the community the census is pivotal for federal funding and would be critical once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.
Leonie Hermantin, communications director of Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center in Miami, said the continued confusion over the census was already causing problems.
“This continued uncertainty is certainly going to have an impact on the response rate,” Hermantin said. “We have no doubt about that. Our numbers are still low.”
In Miami-Dade County, the response is 61.7 percent. In the city of Miami alone, the response rate is at 52.9 percent, which is very low, she said. Broward County’s is at 62.8 percent.
“This battle with the court system, and battle with advocates, has not gone unnoticed in the community, especially those people who are fearful of the security and sanctity of the census,” Hermantin said. “People are not necessarily believing that the information is supposed to be secure, so we are going to do what we must.”
To complete the Census online, go to https://my2020census.gov. To complete it over the phone in English call 844-330-2020. For Creole, call 844-477-2020.
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