The Trump administration announced on Monday that a question regarding a participant’s citizenship will be included in the 2020 census.
“After a thorough review of the legal, program, and policy considerations, as well as numerous discussions with the Census Bureau leadership and interested stakeholders, I have determined that reinstatement of a citizenship question on the 2020 decennial census is necessary to provide complete and accurate data in response to the DOJ request,” wrote Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “To minimize any impact on decennial census response rates, I am directing the Census Bureau to place the citizenship question last on the decennial census form.”
Immediately, immigrant-rights groups condemned the decision claiming that it discourages immigrants from participating and therefore, skewing the data collected and sabotaging the results to be in a certain favor.
But Ross claims that the citizenship data will actually be more accurate with the inclusion on of the question.
“The citizenship data provided to DOJ will be more accurate with the question than without it, which is of greater importance than any adverse effect that may result from people violating their legal duty to respond,” writes Ross.
Ross also argues that other nationally circulated questionnaires, like the American Community Survey, still include this question.
“The Department’s review demonstrated that collection of citizenship data by the Census has been a long-standing historical practice. Prior decennial census surveys of the entire United States population consistently asked citizenship questions up until 1950, and Census Bureau surveys of sample populations continue to ask citizenship questions to this day. In 2000, the decennial ‘ census “long form” survey, which was distributed to one in six people in the U.S., included a question on citizenship. Following the 2000 decennial census, the “long form” sample was replaced by the American Community Survey (“ACS”), which has included a citizenship question since 2005. Therefore, the citizenship question has been well tested,” writes Ross.
Prior to this decision, 17 democratic state attorney generals wrote Ross a letter last month urging him to keep the citizenship question out of the 2020 census.
“Including a question on the 2020 Census that would manipulate the count by scaring people away from being counted — causing grave harm to the states and our residents — is inconsistent with those obligations,” said the state attorney generals.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who was one of the letter’s authors, announced that he planned to file a suit against the policy change.
“We’re prepared to do what we must to protect California from a deficient Census. Including a citizenship question on the 2020 census is not just a bad idea — it is illegal,” said Becerra.
While several lawmakers applauded the decision arguing it’s the opinion of the U.S. citizens that the government is looking to get feedback from.
The census data is used to redraw House districts, to determine the number of House seats that are given to each state and the number of electoral votes a state gets in a presidential election.
“#CitizenshipMatters Apportionment for Congressional seats and electoral votes should be based on citizens, not on residents. Otherwise, citizens are underrepresented… For example, California gets roughly three extra members of Congress based on estimates of illegal residents, tweeted Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH.)
“Only citizens should be given political power. Our current system leads to noncitizens being allocated political power in legislatures at the expense of citizens,” said J. Christian Adams, the president of the conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation. “I applaud the Trump Administration’s decision to include the citizenship question in the 2020 Census. It’s critical that the next redistricting cycle account for the citizen residents of districts so urban centers do not unfairly profit from the political subsidy that higher noncitizen populations provide.”
Author’s note: Could the federal government soon no longer be obligated to provide benefits to non-citizens? This decision is a step in that direction. Again, the census data impacts the outcome of political elections. But non-citizens can’t vote, so should they be able to even participate?