Central Valley 501(c)(3)s Are Advocating for a Complete Census Count in 2020: You Can Too
By Zoe Johnson
As the 2020 census draws nearer, 501(c)(3) public charities in California’s Central Valley are gearing up to ensure a complete and accurate census count. The Central Valley is home to historically undercounted demographic groups, including non-US citizens, African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinx Americans. Many organizations that work with these undercounted populations receive federal funding for their community programs dispersed according to census demographics and population reports. If there is a census undercount, community organizations stand to lose funding for the important services they provide.
In the Central Valley, immigrant and Latinx communities compose a large portion of the area’s undercounted populations. Some 900,000 residents are non-citizen immigrants, and over 60 organizations are focused on serving the Latinx and immigrant communities, providing services ranging from domestic abuse counseling to higher education scholarships. Given the pervasive consequences of a census undercount, organizations that empower Latinx and immigrant populations have come together and engaged other community-based organizations to ensure a complete and accurate census count in 2020.
The following passages detail the efforts of a Central Valley organization that has advocated for immigrant representation in the 2020 Census at the local and regional level.
The Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative
Headquartered in Fresno, California, the Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative (CVIIC) is a 501(c)(3) public charity that seeks to empower immigrant families and is at the forefront of census advocacy in the area. The organization was founded in 2014 and began as a collaboration focused on enrolling eligible immigrant children in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and preparing the region for an eventual comprehensive immigration reform. Since then, the collaborative has shifted focus to the 2020 census. The Executive Director, Dr. Jesus Martinez, and his staff engage with community-based organizations and advocate at the regional and federal level to ensure that policymakers, policy-influencers, and community members are doing all they can to achieve a complete and accurate count in 2020.
Bolstering Existing Connections
CVIIC hosts an annual conference on immigrant integration, where they collaborate with partner organizations to engage community leaders in immigrant empowerment. In 2018, one of the major topics at the conference was 2020 census advocacy. CVIIC worked with multiple county-level census coalitions and individual organizations to provide training opportunities, promote regional coordination and share information and advocacy strategies. Providing these services allows community leaders to take the initiative back to their constituencies and inspire grassroots organizing.
Creating Local Level Coalitions or Complete Count Committees
Another way that CVIIC has influenced census advocacy at the local level is through support for the creation of local complete count committees. Under Governor Jerry Brown, Dr. Martinez was appointed to the California Complete Count Committee, a statewide committee composed of individuals representing advocacy groups, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, the business sector and others. Dr. Martinez and his team at CVIIC have utilized this statewide access to share relevant information with Central Valley organizations and to advocate on their behalf at the state level.
Funding Capacity Building
In addition to providing information and tools for census advocacy, CVIIC also seeks to support local efforts by providing member organizations with mini-grants to fund advocacy, trainings, and planning events, or meet other census-related expenses. This has helped to promote organizations’ participation in census outreach and contribute to the process of regional capacity building.
Participation in Research
In December 2017 and January 2018, CVIIC participated in a pilot census project funded by the Werner-Kohnstamm Family Giving Fund and carried out in Fresno, CA. This research documented how unconventional housing plays a significant role in census undercount in Central Valley communities, including urban areas. A second study was carried out in San Joaquin County in the summer of 2018. Participating in these census research projects provided organizations and community members with tools to engage state and federal policymakers and to justify increased attention to addressing barriers to a complete count in this region. The results of these studies can also be used in local communities to improve outreach strategies.
Under IRS rules, attempting to influence specific legislation at the federal, state, or local levels is generally considered lobbying. 501(c)(3) public charities must track and report lobbying to the IRS and stay within IRS lobbying limits. For more information, please see When Does Your Activity Become Lobbying?
Legal Advocacy: Amicus Brief Opposing the 2020 Citizenship Question
Thanks to an association with the National Immigration Law Center, in February 2019 CVIIC and partners filed an amicus brief supporting California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s lawsuit opposing the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. In April 2019, a second amicus brief was filed in the Supreme Court in support of the State of New York’s case against the Department of Commerce’s proposal to include the citizenship question. Legal advocacy by groups around the country was integral to the Supreme Court’s decision in Department of Commerce et al. v. New York, which effectively prevented the Trump Administration from including a citizenship question on the 2020 census. This decision was a victory for non-citizens and demonstrated the influence that 501(c)(3)s can have on census-related litigation at the federal level.
CVIIC and its partner organizations serve as excellent examples of 501(c)(3) charities engaged in 2020 census advocacy and community organizing. For questions about advocacy and community organizing around the census and other topics, feel free to contact our technical assistance hotline at 866-NP-LOBBY or Advocacy@AFJ.org. With bolder advocacy, we can achieve a complete and accurate census count in 2020!