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Akron Considers a Protest of the Census Citizenship Question

Refugees in church basement in Cleveland
WKSU public radio
Akron anadd other older cities have embraced the thousands of refugees who have settled here.

Akron is taking its first look at a resolution opposing a citizenship question the Trump administration plans to incorporate into the next Census. For Ohio Public Radio, WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on the controversy that arose during today’s City Council committee meetings.

Sponsors of the resolution say the question runs counter to Akron’s “welcoming community” identity for immigrants and refugees. Councilman Russel Neal said it delivers the message that only citizens are worth counting even when others contribute. He pointed to the family of a Hoban High School student abruptly deported last year.

“That family was documented, it was paying taxes, and it was deported. There are examples of folks who have served in the U.S. military being deported.”

Neil said even people here with legal status may hesitate to answer the Census with such a question included. And he argued an undercount would harm the entire city because federal funding is often based on population.

But Councilman Bob Hoch questioned the point.

“I don’t know that the percentages of people coming in to this city are that high that it’s going to make a difference.”

He also said the resolution was likely to make no difference in ultimately what’s on the question.

Summit County Public Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said after the meeting that a Census undercount would have hurt the city and the region. She noted that older cities like Akron with shrinking populations stand to lose federal funding.

Skoda on the broader impact

“Even if we don’t count them in the Census, they’re still going to show up at the ERs, they’re still going to put their children in schools, probably. Most of them do; they enroll in school. It becomes problematic. I don’t know what you get at by asking that question.”

Critics of legal and illegal immigration say immigrants and refugees cost too much in public services. Proponents cite studies that show they pay taxes, start businesses and – by their children’s generation – contribute more than they cost. 

M.L. Schultze came to WKSU as news director in July 2007 after 25 years at The Repository in Canton, where she was managing editor for nearly a decade. She’s now the digital editor and an award-winning reporter and analyst who has appeared on NPR, Here and Now and the TakeAway, as well as being a regular panelist on Ideas, the WVIZ public television's reporter roundtable.