McAllen votes to oppose citizenship question in 2020 Census

McALLEN — Following Hidalgo County’s lead, city commissioners here voted to oppose the federal government’s decision to place a citizenship question in the 2020 U.S. Census.

McAllen officials said including the question would result in an undercount of the population. The Mission city council also voted to oppose the citizenship question.

This city’s resolution spearheaded by Mayor Jim Darling and approved by five of the six city commissioners pits McAllen against the state’s top leaders, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Cruz, Abbott and Paxton support the federal government’s decision in March to include a question in the 2020 U.S. Census that asks people if they are a U.S. citizen.

Darling and five commissioners voted in favor of opposing the question. District 2 Commissioner Joaquin “J.J.” Zamora abstained from the vote.

While Hidalgo County voted to join a lawsuit opposing the citizenship question, McAllen simply voted to voice its opposition to including the question, not join any legal proceedings.

“My understanding is that a majority of the people here illegally came over legally, and overstayed their visas, etc. etc.,” Darling said at Monday night’s commission meeting. “And so, the federal government is supposed to enforce immigration policy and hasn’t done that,” and many of these people now have children here.

“It concerns me that this seems to be politically motivated, but at the same token we’re gonna end up paying for that political motivation because the federal government hasn’t done their job in the first place,” Darling said. “So from that standpoint it’s not fair for them to do that, but I will leave this up to the commission.”

Zamora said he did not disagree with Darling’s analysis, that he believes the city and county have been “severely undercounted for several decades.”

“I believe that issue is a subject matter in the jurisdiction of the federal government,” Zamora said. “Obviously, the issue whether that question should be on the census is not within the purview of this municipality, but I certainly agree with the reasons why it should not be there, because if we’re already getting an undercount now, then I certainly do agree with your analysis that it will probably have a chilling effect and deter others with the question there.”

District 3 Commissioner Omar Quintanilla said he agreed with Zamora because the commission passing a resolution would not move “the needle one way or another.”

“It’s a national debate, it has to do with immigration,” Quintanilla said. “I think that while I understand why we’d wanna oppose the question, because we’re concerned with the count and with the funding — I totally understand that — but inadvertently we enter into a national discussion on immigration, so we’re making an opinion on an issue that is best dealt with on the federal level because its their jurisdiction.”

Quintanilla added that he felt “a little uncomfortable going one way or another on this resolution.” However, he was comfortable enough to vote in favor of the resolution.

Recently elected District 1 Commissioner Javier Villalobos countered Quintanilla’s point.

“It might be a national issue, however, we’re talking about counting the people here in the community,” Villalobos said. “Like Commissioner Zamora said, it does have a chilling effect.”

mferman@themonitor.com