Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stood on a sidewalk in the Bronx Wednesday and urged her constituents to be counted in the 2020 U.S. Census.
Ocasio-Cortez had a personal reason make the case for civic participation. On Monday, the U.S. Census Bureau confirmed what Democrats have long feared: New York’s shrinking population will likely cost the state a congressional seat in 2022. And, as pollster Frank Luntz noted Tuesday, the progressive congresswoman’s district is said to be a leading candidate to get the axe.
New York is expected to lose a House seat after the 2020 Census, and state Democrats are looking to draw out @AOC’s district.https://t.co/DYXvzqvWXm
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) December 31, 2019
Ocasio-Cortez herself said in a February 2019 interview with The Intercept that “it’s entirely possible” the New York legislature will redraw the congressional map without her 14th district, which stretches from the eastern part of the Bronx into Queens. A reporter for the left-wing news site suggested state Democrats were eager to rid themselves of their socialist “problem” — though she predicted Ocasio-Cortez would win a different seat in the state.
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For her part, Ocasio-Cortez characteristically sought to blame President Donald Trump. Echoing a common Democratic refrain, she complained that his administration has “targeted” heavily immigrant communities like hers, including by trying to add a citizenship question to the Census. As a result, she said many immigrants fear that responding to the questionnaire could get them or their loved ones busted by immigration officials.
Because the Census includes non-citizen U.S. residents for the purpose of apportioning congressional seats, undercounting of immigrants could reduce the representation of states like New York that have large immigrant populations, and which tend to lean Democratic.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can’t fight the U.S. Census
As Ocasio-Cortez greeted her constituents on the street Wednesday, she explained to The City, a local news site, that her goal was to spread the message that it is safe to participate in the Census.
“Our strategy is all about building trust in the community before the enumerators even come to your door,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez made clear she was particularly focused on winning over illegal immigrants.
“There’s been an increased use of one’s immigration status as a form of intimidation,” she said. “We have a high immigrant population, a lot of undocumented folks, a lot of distrust from the community in the government.”
According to an analysis by The City, nearly half the residents of Ocasio-Cortez’s district are foreign born, and more than a quarter of them are non-citizens.
“That’s a higher percentage than any other congressional district in the state,” the reporters noted.
Even if Ocasio-Cortez succeeds in driving up her district’s participation in the Census, though, the larger trend is clear. New York’s population has been dwindling for years because residents are leaving. In 2010, the state lost two congressional seats as a result.
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Last year, the Census Bureau estimated, more than 180,000 New Yorkers departed for other states.
Meanwhile, California, which recorded its lowest level of population growth in over a century, lost an estimated 200,000 people to domestic migration and is expected to be docked a Congressional seat for the first time in its history.
Across the United States, the Census Bureau found, population growth has ground to 0.5 percent, the slowest rate in decades, due to a sharp decline in immigration, few births and the aging of America.