The Pasadena City Council on Monday kept its word to ensure the confidentiality of people filling out Census 2020 forms, pledging in a formal resolution “to defend the confidentiality of the 2020 Census against any breach or threatened breach.”

The resolution was drafted from a formal written request submitted at the council’s Feb. 10 meeting by Pablo Alvarado, co-executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), who first read the text of the proposed resolution to the council from the speaker’s podium. Alvarado was surrounded by people who got up form their seats and stood behind him as he read the statement.

“It’s a little bit of a comfort,” Alvarado said after the council adopted the resolution.

According to the resolution, “It is essential that there be a complete and accurate count of all households in the city of Pasadena during the upcoming 2020 Census. Unfortunately, there is a general mistrust of government among various groups of citizens and non-citizens in the immigrant community, as well as other hard to count community members, that may make it difficult to ensure a full count of Pasadena residents,” the document explains.

“The consequence of an undercount could result in a loss of federal funding for important city programs and services, as well as a reduction in local representation in Congress,” the resolution states.

The documents states that the city pledges, “1. To monitor for any breach of census data confidentiality; 2. To use the City Council’s collective power and influence to prevent, block, and/or bring an end to any breach of the currently established guarantee and understanding of the confidentiality of data collected as part of the 2020 census;” and “3. To emphasize publicly the critical importance of continued census safety and security.

“Additionally, the City Council is affirming its commitment to use transparency, publicity, investigation, and/or litigation to challenge any breach or threatened breach in order to ensure that all Pasadena residents can remain assured that personally identifiable census data will not be misused and will remain confidential as required by Title XIII.”

Title XIII is part of the United States Code, which, according to the US Census Bureau, provides the following protections to individuals and businesses:

• Private information is never published. It is against the law to disclose or publish any private information that identifies an individual or business, including names, addresses (including GPS coordinates), Social Security numbers, and telephone numbers.

• The Census Bureau collects information to produce statistics. Personal information cannot be used against respondents by any government agency or court.

• Census Bureau employees are sworn to protect confidentiality. People sworn to uphold Title 13 are legally required to maintain the confidentiality of your data. Every person with access to your data is sworn for life to protect your information and understands that the penalties for violating this law are applicable for a lifetime.

       

Penalties for violating Title XIII are pretty stiff; a sentence of up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000, or both.

After the council unanimously passed the resolution, Alvarado said he felt “solid” about telling his friends and neighbors to participate in filling out the census.

“I can tell them that there are laws that protect them about breaches of confidentiality when they participate in the census, but I can also tell them their City Council stands with them, and if there is a breach of confidentiality by a federal, state or local government agency, or any group, that our city government will use its infrastructure to fight back at the very least for people who live within the city of Pasadena, And that is an assertion that will actually encourage people to participate in the census,” Alvarado said.,

The Census affects the estimated $675 billion in federal funding that cities such as Pasadena use for such things as road improvements and other infrastructure repairs. Pasadena received more than $400 million in federal funding, more than $2,800 per person, following the 2010 Census. 

In addition, congressional representation is determined by the number of people believed to be living in a given community.

Population count is used to decide the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. It also determines the number of Electoral College votes each state receives since the number of votes is equal to the number of senators and congressional districts in a state.

“It impacts us a thousand ways,” Mayor Terry Tornek said about the importance of the census to Pasadena. “It is absolutely vital.”

“The fear, again,” said Alvarado, “is that (people) may be identified through the census, that even though that citizen question was eliminated from the census through litigation, that message of fear has already been sent. And given the environment and immigration enforcement and some police departments participating and collaborating with immigration agents … all of that has sent an incredible wave of fear across the country. It’s a fear you have to overcome, and people do not necessarily feel 100 percent certain that Title XIII is going to prevent them from somehow coming into their places and using that data,” he said.”