ALBANY — While states across the nation are gearing up to make sure all their residents are counted in the 2020 Census, for which representation and billions of federal dollars are at stake, recently released population data from the U.S. Census Bureau has brought projections that New York may be losing a congressional seat in the new decade.
“The demographics going on in this country and the change that is occurring is something that will have an impact on Congress, on how people vote, all of those sorts of things,” said Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, a political consulting firm that estimated New York would lose a seat.
The released data found that New York has grown slowly over the past decade, adding about 73,000 people while losing almost 1 million residents to other states. According to the EDS study, the state would need 537,876 people to keep the 27 seats it currently has in Congress.
If this year’s census information reveals that New York’s population is down by around 237,000, the state could lose a second congressional seat, bringing it down to 25. The EDS’ 2020 projections, based on the growth trends of the past decade, found that New York is only 61,279 people away from losing that second seat.
“It certainly means that somebody’s district will get the ax,” said Michael Li, senior counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “The population losses have been really heavy in the upstate area, which is probably not surprising, and so a district there likely will be lost.”
Experts have pointed to three major contributing factors in New York’s population loss: bad weather, high taxes and the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration.
“New York is growing only because of immigration, and even immigration has slowed since 2017 with the Trump administration,” Li said.
With a travel ban the Trump administration enacted against several Muslim-majority countries, increased apprehensions and lower numbers of immigrants crossing the southern border, and a lower refugee cap year after year under the administration, immigration has been slowing to a trickle across the country and in New York.
Between 2016 and 2018, there was an approximate 25,000-person drop in immigrants obtaining lawful permanent status in New York, according to data from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. Special immigrant visa arrivals to the state were slashed by more than half between fiscal years 2017 and 2019, from 531 to 230, according to Office of Refugee Resettlement data. The number of refugees resettled in the state fell by more than 3,000 from fiscal year 2016 to fiscal year 2019, and is expected to drop more drastically with the White House plan to slash refugee admissions from 30,000 to 18,000, compared to the 110,000 ceiling President Barack Obama set during his last year in office.
Experts said the immigrant communities left in New York will have a hard time getting counted in the new census, a problem for a state that is dependent on immigrants to bolster population count.
“The challenge is even greater than it’s been in previous decades because people are suspect of government,” said Jeffrey M. Wice, a senior fellow at New York Law School. “They don’t want to answer personal information, they’re not convinced this census information is confidential.”
The wariness grew when the Trump administration proposed to add a citizenship question to the census, a directive that was later struck down in court.
Predicting exactly which district seat would be lost is impossible at this point, experts said, because data specific to localities will not be released until the spring. But because the state will use an advisory commission to redistrict rather than have the state Legislature submit map proposals, people are hopeful the process will be less political and more just.
“The idea was they would be more removed from politics,” Li said. “One thing they’re instructed is to try to keep communities of interest together, and that’s a big constraint.”
The state government is working on partnering with local organizations to enter hard-to-reach communities and ensure as many people as possible are counted, announcing last year $20 million of grant funding to support those organizations’ work.
Experts said such efforts are critical to make sure New York reapportions fairly, and reverses the estimates to ensure the same representation in Congress.
“The estimates are generally reliable, but a lot has to play out,” Wice said. “To count everybody has to be a priority because there are no second chances. The number we get in December  will last 10 years.”
Massarah Mikati covers the New York State Legislature and immigration for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Email her at email@example.com, or find her on Twitter @massarahmikati.