Mayor Toni Harp called on people to let Washington, D.C. know that undocumented immigrants live here and should count toward our official population figures.
Harp made the call on her recent appearance on WNHH FM’s “Mayor Monday” program, a day after participating in a Council of State Governments panel on immigration.
She asked listeners to write to the U.S. Commerce Department and to members of Congress to oppose a plan by the Trump administration to reintroduce a question on the 2020 census form asking participants to check off that they are citizens. Harp, like other mayors dealing with undocumented residents, fears that the presence of the question will dissuade many immigrants from completing the census form, because they fear being deported.
That means New Haven and other Northeastern cities could lose representation in Congress, or at least lose aid tied to population, Harp noted.
The census last asked the question in 1950. (Click here for a rundown on the issue.)
“A lot of people there are concerned,” she said. “It’s something that everyone should be concerned with.”
“The real question is whether this census will make our population decrease.”
Harp said that the city suffered 20 years ago when many undocumented immigrants were left out of the census. As a result, the city’s population was undercounted.
She credited her predecessor, Mayor John DeStefano, for recognizing that problem and fixing it.
“They worked really, really hard in the next census to make people comfortable filling it out, no matter what your level of documentation. People did. And we moved from the third largest city to the second largest city [in Connecticut]. Our population increased,” Harp said.
She has signed a letter along with other mayors across the country calling on the Trump administration and Congress to elminate the check off. The letter argues that the addition of the question “threatens the Census Bureau’s ability to conduct an inclusive enumeration that accurately reflects the diverse fabric of America.” (Read the full letter here.)
At Sunday’s panel, which took place in Rye, N.Y. at the state governments group’s annual conference, Harp shared a panel with legislators from Puerto Rico and Rhode Island along with Erika Tindill, a Connecticut family court judge who lives in New Haven. Tindall spoke of how undocumented parents in her court sometimes sign on to agreements they normally would oppose for fear of returning to court, because federal immigration agents have been showing up at local courthouses.
Harp also heard on the panel about how hundreds of Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria were brought to the mainland by ministers — who then placed them in a sex trafficking operation. She said she spoke of New Haven’s positive experience welcoming and resettling Maria evacuees.
Mayor: Borrowing Prevented State Takeover
Also on the program, which occurred on her 71st birthday, Harp defended her administration’s decision to refinance $160 million of debt to close a budget deficit. If not for the refinancing, New Haven would have “probably” ended up “very close” to bankruptcy, triggering a state takeover of its finances, she said.
She reiterated a commitment to work with alders on a five-year plan to stabilize city finances. She predicted the plan would be ocmpleted by late December or January and serve as a guide for future budgets, with commitments to put adequate money each year into pensions and the city’s rainy day fund. She predicted that would please bond rating agencies that recently downgraded the city. So will the next police contract, she said, because it will likely see savings in health benefits, one of the rating agencies’ stated concerns.
Harp also responded “absolutely” when a caller asked if she intends to run for reelection next year.
Click on the video to watch the full episode of “Mayor Monday” on WNHH FM.
This episode of “Mayor Monday” was made possible with the support of Gateway Community College and Berchem Moses PC.