Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) got a rock-star reception as she greeted constituents under the roar of the elevated No. 6 train Wednesday morning.
The freshman member of Congress, who became a national figure after her upset Democratic primary victory last year, surprised Parkchester passersby with a pop-up event promoting participation in the 2020 Census.
“Our strategy is all about building trust in the community before the enumerators even come to your door,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview.
That trust is crucial in a district where 47% of residents are foreign born, and fear of taking part in an official government count is expected to be widespread.
“There’s been an increased use of one’s immigration status as a form of intimidation,” she said.
For Ocasio-Cortez, a full Census count is more than a matter of making sure her district gets all the funds and services it’s due. In a sense, her own political fortunes could hang in the balance.
Following the 2020 census, every state will draw new district boundaries to reflect changes in the population, the political implications of which will stretch for at least the next decade.
A review suggests Ocasio-Cortez’ district could be particularly vulnerable to undercount because a little over a quarter of those living there are non-citizens.
That’s a higher percentage than any other congressional district in the state.
A Census undercount in Ocasio-Cortez’ district and elsewhere in the state could lead to the elimination of congressional districts — potentially setting off politically charged redistricting battles.
New York already is on track to lose up to two congressional seats during reapportionment due to population decline and slower rate of growth, according to a December report by Election Data Services.
“Every member of Congress should be concerned about the Census,” said Jeffrey Wice, a fellow at SUNY Buffalo Law School and redistricting expert who’s a senior advisor to New York Counts 2020.
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