Prewitt said the media may bear some responsibility as well: a "media storm" around immigration raids could chill participation among millions of undocumented immigrants and mixed-status families.
"You only have to strike one match to get this to light ... There is a lot of fear and mistrust," he said.
An ICE spokesperson said in an email that the agency had "no plans" to suspend enforcement before or during the census process.
"ICE's immigration enforcement efforts are focused on targeted individuals illegally present in the U.S. and deportation officers do not perform indiscriminate sweeps in local communities," the spokesperson said.
Representatives for the U.S. Census Bureau did not respond to CQ Roll Call's multiple requests for comment. In the past, the agency has emphasized federal law protects census responses, preventing them from being shared with immigration or law enforcement officials.
The concerns surrounding immigration enforcement have factored into an anti-immigrant atmosphere under the Trump administration, said John Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Yang noted that the Census Bureau's own research shows a rising distrust of government among immigrant communities.
"That has caused a concern about information sharing within communities, especially vulnerable communities such as Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities," he said.
Lizette Escobedo, director of census efforts for the national Latino advocacy group NALEO, said she feels the most concern for the phase when census workers go door to door to find people who did not fill out the form on their own.
"While we haven't heard anything specific, this administration has taken us by surprise in other instances so we aren't taking chances," Escobedo said.
NALEO's national drive has focused on getting respondents to respond on their own, through print, over the phone or online. The Census Bureau estimates about 60% of the country will self-respond, pushing millions of people into the door-knocking phase of the count.
"Our take has been, let's avoid having to figure out what badge someone is wearing at the door by having people self respond," Escobedo said.
(Tanvi Misra contributed to this report.)
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