WASHINGTON — The Census Bureau says it will not create a new category where people from the Middle East or North Africa can be counted on the 2020 census.

The announcement was made Friday in a news release on the bureau’s website.

Advocates for years have been pushing for a new separate geographic category for people of Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) descent.

The Arab American Institute called the decision a “severe blow.”

Executive Director Maya Berry says undercounting has “deprived our community of access to basic services and rights, from language assistance at polling places, to the allocation of educational grants for cultural competency training and language assistance, to greater access to health information and research.”

Berry says Congress will be pushed to get the decision overturned.